As the economies of Asia soak up higher volumes of petrochemical commodities – especially plastics, rubber and composites used in consumer goods and automotive materials – the next few years can expect to see global process oil demand grow even faster than automotive engine oil demand, a recent industry conference heard. But will todays process oil suppliers – especially API Group I base oil refiners – keep pace with rising demand?
Maybe not. In fact, the worlds supply of solvent-refined Group I base oil has been dwindling for some time, and has been elbowed aside by new volumes of Group II and Group III base oils. These hydroprocessed oils have the purity, viscosity index, low volatility and better oxidation stability needed to satisfy many automotive and industrial lubrication uses, but they lack the exacting physical and chemical characteristics (such as solvency, higher viscosity, saturates content or evaporative properties) that are vital to many process oil applications.