The COVID-19 pandemic caused global consumption of finished lubricants to fall 10.9% in 2020 to 36.4 million metric tons, according to a new study released by Kline & Co. consultants.
That puts the coronavirus’ impact on the industry on a similar scale to that of the Great Recession. According to previous Kline estimates, that economic crisis caused at 12.1% decrease in global lube demand over two years – from 39.8 million tons in 2007 to 35 million tons in 2009.
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In a news release yesterday about its study, Global Lubricants Market Analysis and Assessment, Kline said major lubricant markets are emerging from the COVID-19 crisis, adding that “signs of stability, recovery, and a return to normal consumption patterns are taking hold.” It offered no estimates of lube consumption in 2021.
The firm, which is headquartered in Parsippany, New Jersey, United States, said demand in China and India fell 12.9% and 10.9%, respectively, in 2020. The United States, which along with China is one of the world’s two largest markets, shrank by an estimated 9.7%, Kline said.
In a coordinated news release, energy giant Shell said the Kline’s study found that it remained the world’s largest lubricant supplier with sales of 4.1 million tons in 2020. That represented a decrease of 8.9% from 2019. Shell added that it is the largest supplier in terms of volume for each segment of the global industry – consumer automotive, commercial automotive and industrial. Those segments account for 34%, 30% and 36%, respectively, of its own sales.
Kline said that the next-largest suppliers after Shell are ExxonMobil, BP, TotalEnergies and Chevron and that collectively the five companies supply 35% of global lubricant demand. Lubricant businesses took a variety of steps to try to cope with declining demand, and Kline said some allowed companies to increase market share. In China, where online purchases of passenger car motor oil are booming, some marketers established their own online stores on internet sales platforms such as JD.com and Tmall.com. Some companies allied with online-to-offline aftermarket service providers to establish new sales channels.