Sinochem Corp. announced last month that it has opened a pilot plant producing low-viscosity polyalphaolefin in Lanzhou, China, using technology developed by Chinese researchers.
The company said it expects the project to lead to less dependence on foreign sources for PAOs used to make high performance lubricants.
The plant has capacity to make 10,000 metric tons per year, according to an article published by China Chemical Industry News. Sinochem, a state-owned chemicals conglomerate, suggested that it plans to build a larger facility, but it did not provide details.
China has several commercial PAO plants, all relatively small. Naco Synthetics, an independent company, operates a plant in Shanghai with capacity of 15,000 t/y. State-owned coal giant Lu’an Group has 23,000 t/y of PAO capacity at its coal-to-liquids refinery in Changzhi.
Sinochem said its pilot plant uses technology developed by China Petroleum and Petrochemical Research Institute, a research arm of state-owned energy giant PetroChina. It heralded the success in producing low-viscosity PAO, which are used as base stocks in high performance lubricants, stating that Chinese PAO plants have mostly produced high-viscosity cuts that are used primarily as viscosity modifiers.
The company also said that China’s lubricant market largely depends on imports for the PAO that is uses.
The research organization, known informally as China Petrochemical Research Institute, works among other areas to develop catalysts for polyolefins. Its Daqing Chemical Research Center began working on PAO technology in 2008 and subsequently solved a number of problems to enable continuous production of the fluids and to make the process cleaner.
Although the pilot plant is making low-vis fluids, Sinochem said the process can produce low-, medium- and high-viscosity PAO.