ExxonMobil announced Thursday that its new base stock plant in Rotterdam has begun commercial production, marking the opening of Europe’s first large-scale API Group II source.
The plant, constructed at a pre-existing fuels refinery, is already producing base oils that are being distributed starting this month to storage terminals, according to a press release. The company plans to begin selling those oils during the first quarter.
Get alerts when new Sustainability Blog articles are available.
With capacity to make 1 million metric tons per year, the facility is easily Europe’s largest base oil production site – more than 20 percent larger than the next-biggest plant. More significantly, it introduces a huge new slug of Group II capacity at a time when the region is accelerating its uptake of Group II. According to LubesnGreases 2018 Global Guide to Base Oil Refining, the Rotterdam plant more than triples existing virgin Group II capacity in Western and Eastern Europe, although Western Europe also has several small rerefineries that also make Group II.
Research firm Argus Media Ltd. estimated in November that Group II supply in Europe totaled approximately 1.7 million tons in 2017, including 1.43 million tons of imports.
Europe has been much slower than North America and Asia to make use of Group II, but Europe’s demand grew steadily in recent years before seeming to accelerate the in 2018. Observers have said they expect ExxonMobil’s plant to reinforce that trend. Argus said the regions Group II this year could reach double the level of 2017.
The main element of the base oil project was a $1 billion expansion of the refinery’s hydrocracking capacity. The plant makes grades of base oil. The first has kinematic viscosity of approximately 5 centistokes at 100 degrees C, the second approximately 12 cst.
ExxonMobil also announced it will open a base oil hub terminal in Hamburg, Germany, scheduled for completion in late summer of this year. The company previously said it will open another terminal in Valencia, Spain.