Kirei Vows to Make Additives for Russia

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Kirei Vows to Make Additives for Russia
Kirei Chemical LLC, an Anglo-Russian company headquartered in London, announced it is building a lubricant additive factory in Russia and that it will supply additive packages for engine oils and other lubricants. Rendering courtesy of Kirei Chemical LLC

Kirei Chemical LLC, an Anglo-Russian company headquartered in London, announced it is building a lubricant additive factory in Russia and that it will supply additive packages for engine oils and other lubes meeting the latest performance standards – packages that have been in short supply since the industry’s main producers withdrew from the country.

Lubricant producers in Russia are facing big shortages of additives and additive packages for lubes meeting the most up-to-date industry and original equipment manufacturer specifications, industry insiders have said, since Infineum, Lubrizol, Chevron Oronite and Afton Chemical stopped selling into the country following its invasion of Ukraine. Kirei told Lube Report last week that it wants to turn the tide by filling the gaps left in the market.

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“Our company is focused on manufacturing additive packages that meet the latest [engine oi] specifications,” Kirei’s commercial director in Russia and other Commonwealth of Independent States nations, Anton Guzenko, told Lube Report last week.

At least one industry analyst called Kirei’s stated goals unrealistic and said the company is unlikely to make much of a dent in the shortage in Russia.

“One does not waltz into this business simply because there may be a demand,” Stephen B. Ames, principal of SBA Consulting in the United States, told Lube Report. “If so, there would be more than four main additive producers.”

Kirei said its plant is designed for capacity to produce 10,000 metric tons per year of lube additives and additive packages. The facility will be located in Solnechnogorsk district, northwest of Moscow, and is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2024.

“After the withdrawal of the major manufacturers – Lubrizol, Infineum, Chevron Oronite and Afton – from the Russian market, we see a big void in the production of premium additive packages for engine, gear and industrial oils,” Guzenko said.

Besides its main office in London, Kirei does business in United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Armenia and Russia. Prior to the Moscow’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, the company was a partner of one of the four big lubricant additive makers. It now distributes specialty products such as polyalphaolefin and synthetic ester base stocks, as well as additive components and packages from around the world, the company said. Its customers include Gazpromneft-Lubricants, chemical supplier TAIF, grease joint venture Intesmo, all headquartered in Russia, and Kazakhstan-based Hill Corp., plus approximately 50 other independent blenders in Russia and the commonwealth.

Lubricant additive packages contain the chemical components of a finished lubricant formula, carried in base oil diluent. For automotive engine oils they may contain viscosity index improvers, which are separate from other additives, which are combined in dispersant inhibitor packages.

Additive companies that supply packages develop the formulary technology to meet lubricant performance requirements, including paying for testing at independent laboratories to verify that the finished lubricants meet requirements of specifications adopted by OEMs or industry organizations such as the American Petroleum Institute and the Association of the European Automobile Manufacturers in Europe.

For a business related to additive production this may be a bold announcement even in a more normal times, but with the severe sanctions against Russia in place and for a company that never produced base oils or lube additives, it would be a tall task, industry insiders said. Also, they noted that Kirei may find it quite difficult in the current shortages in the global lubricant market to source the chemical precursors (the feedstock) to make some of the additives.

Infineum, which is headquartered in the United Kingdom, and U.S.-based Lubrizol, Oronite and Afton supply the large majority of additive packages consumed around the world, especially for finished lubes meeting the latest performance specs. Know-how for those formulas was developed over decades and built upon previous specs.

Kirei claims its Russian plant will produce packages for API SP and ILSAC GF-6, the companion of newest passenger car motor oil specs for North America; ACEA A3/B4, ACEA C3 and C5 and ACEA E6, E9, E11 and E8, most of the newest industry light- and heavy-duty engine oil specs from the Association of European Automobile Manufacturers; and the latest OEM specs from Мercedes Вenz, Man OEM and other unnamed manufacturers. The company said it will also produce packages for earlier specs, such as API SN and API CI-4. They said they won’t produce additives for Gost standards, which were developed in the Soviet Union but still used voluntarily in the commonwealth countries.

Ames, of SBA Consulting, expressed pessimism that Kirei would be able to manufacture all or most of the many components that go into automotive dispersant inhibitor packages, such as detergents, dispersants, antiwear and antioxidation agents, corrosion inhibitors or friction modifiers, or viscosity modifiers. “To do so would entail very small operations lacking the scale and viability to produce more than a couple of components – certainly not a complete DI pack,” he said.

He added that the biggest hurdle Kirei would have to overcome is the lack of formulary know-how. “Not only in production of these complex components but also how to put them together in a package to meet accrediting agency and OEM approvals,” he said.

Guzenko said that their intention and vigor to dive into this project for Russian production of “premium” additive packages is based on a research and analysis of different types of patents, technical reports and attendance in numerous scientific conferences dealing with lubricant chemistries.

“Kirei’s engineers have over 15 years of experience working in the field of lubricating materials, including experience in assessment of different types of additive chemistries produced by the aforementioned four leading additive makers,” he said.

The company has research partnerships with Russian research institutions such as Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas and Yaroslavl State Technical University, Skolkovo Innovation Center, as well as with Russian and foreign engine manufacturers and laboratories.

“For verification of the compliance [of our products] we are set to perform testing in the leading international centers such as APL, [Southwest Research Institute], Intertek and others,” Guzenko said. “Also, we are set to perform large-scale field back-to-back testing of engines that operate in difficult and extreme weather conditions of Russia.”

Currently, the company is doing bench tests that are expected to finish by the year’s end, and in 2023 it will begin engine tests for OEM specs, he said.

Ames said Russia imported 100,000 t/y of lube additives from Western suppliers before they stopped supplying the market. “And this number does not include the high additive content of the sizeable imports of higher tier finished lubricants from Western Europe that are also no longer available” he added. Therefore, he said, even if Kirei succeeds in supplying the products it has mentioned, 10,000 tons would fall far short of the market’s demand for additives.

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