European grease production increased 5% in 2021, according to the National Lubricating Grease Institute’s most recent annual survey, bouncing back from a pandemic-affected 2020. Use of aluminum, calcium and lithium soap thickeners rose across the board for the region.
Operators of 49 grease plants in the region reported producing 216.7 million kilograms (477.7 million pounds), compared with 205.3 million kg in 2020. Those numbers are from the comparative data of the survey, which uses only companies that reported from 2018 to 2020.
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Globally operators of 263 plants reported making 1.19 billion kg in 2021, an increase of 5%.
Almost 70% of the grease output reported for the region was made with conventional lithium or lithium complex soap thickeners – 150.5 million kg versus 140.7 million kg in 2020. Calcium was the second-most popular type of thickener at 15% of the market, or 32.5 million kg, which was up from 31.5 million kg in 2020. The volume of those made with aluminum soaps rose from 10.9 million kg to 11.4 million kg, or 5%.
Chuck Coe, president of consulting firm Grease Technology Solutions LLC, which conducts the survey on behalf of NLGI, noted that some companies that participated in previous surveys did not in 2021.
Eleven companies “with 11 plants that participated in the survey between 2018 and 2020 did not participate in the 2021 survey,” he said in an introductory letter to the survey. “These non-participants were largely from Europe and India. The 2021 production of these non-participants is estimated to be about 45 million pounds. This survey includes an estimate, by region, of the production volumes for those former participants known or believed to still be producing lubricating grease.”
In Africa and the Middle East, respondents reported making 52.6 million kg at 13 plants. The number of respondents was too small for valid year-to-year comparisons.
Lithium-based thickeners are even more dominant in Africa and the Middle East, accounting for 87% of the market, or 45.7 million kg.
Calcium thickeners came in at 6% of the market, while aluminum soap made up just over 2%.
The survey also compiled grease production data by base oil type. Among the 182.8 million kg of grease in Europe for which base oil fluids type was reported, 81% was made with conventional base stocks, 11% were synthetic, 4% were semi-synthetic and 4% was made with biobased fluids.
Ninety-eight percent of the products made in Africa and the Middle East used conventional base fluid, and 2% was semi-synthetic. Only 95,200 kg were reported using synthetic base fluids, and none using biobased fluids last year.
The full 30-page report of 2021 grease production includes data going back to 2018 and is available to download at the NLGI website. NLGI member companies can obtain a free copy, and nonmembers may purchase the report, which contains data categorized by geographic region, thickener type, base oil type and year.