The next five years will see big changes in the availability of base oils for the lubricants market. Refiners are expected to continue adding capacity to produce API Group II and Group III base oils, and most observers agree that this will lead to more closures of Group I plants. This will result in an upward shift of base oil viscosity index and a downward shift of volatility – trends that should help meet rising performance demands in engine oils and numerous other types of lubricants.
But the capacity changes will also have unintended consequences that may create challenges for the industry. As speakers at two recent conferences noted, the shift toward Group II and III production means lower volumes of heavy base oils and poorer solubility, which hamper formulation of some lubricants.