Although it has long been a lubricant-consuming giant, China prior to 2010 was outclassed when it came to base oil refining. The countrys base oil capacity, estimated by PetroChina officials to be less than 4 million metric tons a year, had been at a virtual standstill for a decade. Much of its output was low-grade API Group I and naphthenic base oils that were unfit for making the advanced automotive engine oils that consumers increasingly demanded.
What a difference four years makes. Chinas national and independent refiners have pumped up their base oil muscle by 66 percent since 2010, with particular emphasis on building Group II supplies. The country now boasts a 13 percent share of global capacity, says new research from Lubes’n’Greases magazine.