China Tops Asias Varied Grease Market

China was the worlds largest producer of grease in 2014, according to data provided by companies participating in the National Lubricating Grease Institutes latest global production survey, released last week.

The United States-based NLGIs report is the worlds most thorough source of public information about the grease industry. However, the institute pointed out that its production volume data isnt comprehensive, as some companies chose not to participate. And since the pool of participants may vary from year to year, comparing records from one year to the next may not accurately reflect market trends.

According to the study, Asia-Pacific is by far the worlds largest grease-producing region - the 2014 report tallied 1.4 billion pounds of production there, compared to 2.5 billion pounds in the entire world. Asia's total reported production volume in 2014 compares to 1.5 billion pounds of production reported for 2013.

The data NLGI collected indicates that China produces a significantly greater volume of grease than any other individual country or region. In China, 81 companies with a total of 79 plants provided production data for 2014. Those companies accounted for production of almost 928 million pounds of grease. In 2013, 80 companies in China -- speaking for 80 plants -- reported producing 992 million pounds.

NLGI recorded data from 16 companies in Japan, which made 176 million pounds in 17 plants - the next highest production volume in Asia in 2014. A dozen companies from the Indian region responded, reporting a volume of 168 million pounds made in 20 plants. A total of 8 companies representing 19 plants participated in the Pacific Rim and Southeast Asia (which the survey lumps together into one region), marking a volume of 146 million pounds.

Lithium soap thickeners accounted for 90 percent of the greases produced in India and the surrounding subcontinent in 2014, but only 60 percent of production in Japan, according to the survey. Worldwide, lithium soap made up approximately 76 percent of all grease production last year.

Lithium soap thickeners made up the same volume - 90 percent - of Indias production in 2013, according to that years survey responses. In 2013, only 5 percent of that volume was complex lithium soaps, while participants in 2014 indicated that more than 8 percent of its lithium soap production was of the complex variety. A complex thickener adds a complexing agent, or coordination compound, to a conventional soap.

The survey shows calcium soap thickeners accounting for 17.6 percent of greases produced in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Rim in 2014, but only 9.7 percent in China and just 5.6 percent in Japan and 3.7 percent in the Indian region.

Southeast Asia and the Pacific Rim have a 5.1 percent portion of products containing aluminum soap thickeners, which is at least twice as high as the other areas.

Three percent of the grease in the Indian subcontinent was sodium soap thickeners in 2014, a technology hardly used in the other areas of Asia.

Twenty-seven percent of grease made in Japan used polyurea thickeners - far more than elsewhere in Asia. Polyurea-thickened grease made up just 3.9 percent of total grease types in China and 0.0 percent throughout Southeast Asia, the Pacific Rim and the Indian region.

All regions in Asia reported that almost their entire output of greases was made with conventional base stocks, but Japan and China used a higher volume of synthetic base oils in grease formulations, at approximately 3.3 percent each. Two percent of China's greases utilized semi-synthetic base oils, while players in Japan did not use any.

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) defines lubricating grease as a solid to semifluid product of dispersion of a thickening agent in liquid lubricant.

Copies of the 2014 NLGI Grease Production Survey are provided free to NLGI member companies and to survey participants. Others may purchase it online at www.nlgi.org.