India Amends Grease Standards

INDORE, India - Attempting to ease the impact of growing competition for lithium, India expanded a government performance standard for greases to cover other types of thickener chemicals, a government official said at an industry event here earlier this month.

The Indian Standard 7623 specification for industrial greases previously covered only greases made with lithium or lithium complex soap thickeners, Nagamani T., a scientist at Bureau of Indian Standards, said at the annual meeting of the Indian chapter of the United States-based National Lubricating Grease Institute.

However, the technical committee under the Petroleum, Coal & Related Products Department of the bureau revised the voluntary specification late last year so that it no longer specifies particular types of thickeners. The specifications requirements are now based solely on performance and physical properties, she added.

The New Delhi-headquartered BIS is the national standards body of India, and its various activities include standards development, product certification schemes and laboratory services. The Automotive and Industrial Greases Subcommittee, PCD 25:3, deals with Indian standards for greases. The committees members include manufacturers, government institutes, testing laboratories and consumer organizations.

Nagamani said the committee has also drafted a revision for IS 12203, a standard for automotive greases that currently specifies only lithium thickeners.

IS 7623 and 12203 were preceded by IS 1002:1956, a spec that covered both automotive and industrial greases and that allowed a range of thickener types, Nagamani stated. It was later superseded by the two existing standards after the industry shifted heavily to lithium thickeners.

Lithium-based greases are most popular for a wide range of applications due to their long life, high viscosity, excellent water resistance and very good high-temperature performance. But lithium prices have jumped in recent years due to increased competing demand for lithium-ion batteries used in smartphones, laptops and electric vehicles

Nagamani said lithium usage is increasing so its availability may decrease or cost may increase. Based on this, the committee in 2018 thought that there was a need for making IS 7623 and IS 12203 multipurpose greases for industrial and automotive applications rather than making them lithium-based only, she explained. Nagamani said the availability of high-performance greases with different additives also influenced the decision to revise the standards.

It is a good decision, Vijay Deshmukh, general manager of research and development at Mumbai-based Standard Greases & Specialities Pvt., told Lube Report on the sidelines of the event. He noted that lithium prices surged about two years ago due to a shortage, putting domestic users under severe stress. Companies asked BIS to loosen its restrictions on thickener types.

Nagamani said the bureau relaxed the 7623s requirement for resistance to water wash, antiwear performance and extreme pressure performance to make it easier for greases made with other types of thickeners to meet the standard. A new parameter of elastomer compatibility was added, she said. The revised standard has been published as IS 7623:2019 Multipurpose Industrial Greases - Specification (third revision).

The scope of IS 12203 and its requirements of free organic acidity, elastomer compatibility and low-temperature torque have been modified, she noted. The draft title of the revision is Multipurpose Automotive Greases and will be published in the next three to four months, Nagamani said.

As far as meeting the specifications are concerned, [the thickener] could be lithium, calcium, sodium or anything. So, that is what they have done and now we can use other soap-based greases, Deshmukh said. The main thing is that the product should meet the performance requirements, he added.

Deshmukh noted the BIS move will help the industry to reduce its dependence on lithium to some extent if people start using other types of soaps.

Lithium- and lithium complex-based greases dominate Indias market, accounting for over 80 percent the volume of grease produced in the country. Approximately three-quarters of grease produced globally contains lithium thickeners.

The global lithium market size is expected to reach U.S. $5.88 billion by the end of 2025, up from U.S. $2.86 billion in 2017, according to India-based business analytics and consulting company Adroit Market Research.

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