The world’s largest crude oil supplier and one of the largest owners of base oil assets is getting back into the finished lubricants business.
Saudi Aramco announced Sunday that it is launching a brand of automotive and industrial lubes, Orizon – apparently on a modest scale to begin with. The state-controlled company called the move part of a broader strategy to increase its supply of refined, more profitable products.
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“Entering the lubricants market is an important milestone for the company as we continue to expand our presence throughout the downstream value chain,” Aramco Vice President of Fuels Yasser M. Mufti said in a news release.
The Saudi government owns most of Aramco, which is headquartered in Dhahran, the rest being owned by public shareholders after a 2019 initial stock offering sold 5% of the business. It has long been by far the world’s largest producer of crude oil but in recent years has followed a strategy of expanding refining and other downstream activities in order to become more profitable. The strategy has led to a number of mega-projects, including new fuel and petrochemical refineries.
By comparison the step into lubricants appears small. The company did not offer targets nor estimates of sales volumes or market shares but said it will initially sell the products in 20 Saudi cities. The news release said the line-up will be sold directly to consumers but did not discuss sales channels in details, though it did note that the company recently opened its first two service stations in Riyadh and Saihat, Saudi Arabia.
The stable of products includes synthetic, semi-synthetic and conventional gasoline engine oils meeting API, ACEA and original equipment manufacturer performance specifications and ranging in viscosity from SAE 0W-20 to SAE 20W-50 multi-grades; semi-synthetic and conventional heavy-duty diesel engine oils ranging from SAE 10W-40 to SAE 20W-50; other driveline lubes such as automatic and manual transmission fluids and axel lubricants plus brake fluids; industrial lubricants such as hydraulic fluids, gear oils, compressor and turbine oils and greases.
The news release did not state where the lubricants would be manufactured, and Aramco did not respond to questions by deadline.
Before introducing the Orizon line, Aramco did not offer finished lubricants through any wholly-owned operations, though it does own a controlling share of South Korean refiner S-Oil, which sells finished lubes domestically and in a number of foreign markets.
Aramco is one of the world’s biggest base oil players, through its ownership of S-Oil, which operates a large API Group II and III plant in South Korea; Luberef, which produces Group I and II fluids at two plants in Saudi Arabia; and Motiva, which operates a large Group II and III plant in the United States. Luberef and Motiva are both wholly owned.
Aramco was formerly a finished lubes supplier through its stake in Petromin, a joint venture with Mobil that was later renamed Saudi Arabian Lubricating Oil Co. Aramco and Mobil formed Petromin in 1968. Gulf Oil Corp. and Saudi investment firm Dabbagh Group bought the business in 2007 and changed the name back to Petromin the following year.