Synthetics Demand Stalls in Russia


MOSCOW – Economic problems in Russia helped halt the rising penetration of synthetic engine oils in the country, an industry insider told a conference here last week.

Viktor Pushkarev, head of projects for Moscow-based Autostat, presented the consultancys findings from a multi-faceted analysis that included an online survey system of motorists, data from lube manufacturers and its own estimates of oil engine oil consumption.

Citing results from its Radar online survey system, Pushkarev said that 58 percent of respondents who drive foreign-branded cars said they used synthetic engine oils in 2017. Thats down from 73 percent in 2015. The percentage of respondents using synthetics in domestic cars rose over that time period, but just barely – from 25 percent to 26 percent – Pushkarev told attendees at RPIs International Lubricants conference held here last week.

On the other hand, demand rose for semi-synthetic oils, which cost less than synthetics. Thirty-nine percent of respondents driving foreign cars reported using semi-synthetics in 2017, up from 24 percent two years earlier, and the percent of respondents driving domestic cars who reported doing likewise climbed from 68 percent to 70 percent over the same period.

This was a result of the complex economic situation in the country that led to ruble devaluation and increased prices for finished [lubricants], Pushkarev said.

Russias economy was hurt the past few years by international sanctions and decreases in the price of crude oil, one of the pillars of its economy. If all Russian motorists followed the engine oil recommendations of their original equipment manufacturers, synthetics would account for 74 percent of the countrys passenger car motor oil demand, according to Autostat calculations. Semi-synthetics would account for 23 percent and conventional mineral oil lubes the remaining 3 percent.

The market research firm estimated that Russian engine oil demand for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles rose 1.8 percent in 2017 to 256,000 metric tons.

Pushkarev also reported that passenger car motor oils are proliferating in Russia. For example, Lukoil offers 34 different oils under its Lukoil and Genesis-brands, while Gazpromneft Lubricants offers 46 under the G-Energy and Gazpromneft brands. Rosneft offers 37 types of motors oils under the Rosneft and TNK brands, while French oil major Total offers 31 types of products under the Total and Elf brands. The most common viscosity grade is 5W-30, Pushkarev said.

Automakers and engine oil marketers continue to put increasing emphasis on improving fuel economy, but the benefits to motorists from fuel-efficient oils is actually minuscule, Pushkarev said.

ExxonMobil claims that Mobil 1 ESP x2 0W-20 improves fuel economy by 4 percent compared to its 5W-30 counterpart, while Liqui Moly claims that its Molygen New Generation 5W-20 product can achieve up to 7 percent better fuel economy compared to the standardized European Automobile Manufacturers Association oil bench test M111.

Autostat used these claims to calculate the amount of money motorists would save by using these oils for 10,000 kilometers.

We calculated that the actual fuel economy on 10,000 kilometers [driven] with use of these oils, compared to their higher viscosity counterparts, is 900 rubles [U.S. $14], Pushkarev said.

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