Will Synthetics Take Flight in Asia-Pacific?


BEIJING – Synthetic lubricant demand in Asia-Pacific should rise in coming years as governments toughen regulations on fuel economy and vehicle emissions, an ExxonMobil Chemical official told an industry conference here last week.

Innovations in engine and equipment design have helped further energy-efficiency gains and have helped meet emissions-reduction requirements, Synthetics Global Marketing Manager Brad Rinderknecht said during a presentation at the China International Lubricant and Technology Exhibition. However, to sustain or accelerate efficiency improvements, further advancements must be made to develop lubricants that help achieve even greater fuel economy and energy efficiency, longer drain intervals and the ability to perform in increasingly severe operating conditions. We believe that synthetic lubricants are particularly well-suited to meet this challenge.

Rinderknechts comments seemed to refer to finished lubricants made from API Group IV and Group V base stocks, which includes polyalphaolefins, alkylated naphthalenes and esters – all of which are offered by ExxonMobil Chemical. The industrys definition of synthetics also includes Group III mineral oil base stocks, which are produced in larger volumes than other synthetic varieties.

PAOs are produced in the largest volume of synthetics in the Group IV and V categories. In an interview at the exhibition on Nov. 20, the day after Rinderknechts presentation, he and other officials said PAO demand will rise in Asia-Pacific and China, though they declined to offer estimates of existing levels or to predict specific future volumes. They did forecast that global PAO demand will increase between4 percent and 5 percent annually in coming years.

Damon Davis, vice president of the Synthetic Global Business Unit for ExxonMobil Chemical, noted that some of the PAO-containing lubricants consumed in China are imported and therefore do not contribute to PAO sales in the country.

The supply chain for these products is global, and that makes it harder to estimate their demand within a certain region, Davis said.

Officials acknowledged that PAO demand will be dampened by the current regional and global glut of API Group III base stocks, which are also classified as synthetic.

We continue to assess the impact of Group III on PAO demand as we go forward, Davis said. But PAO is still a needed product in certain applications.

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