China Moves to the Top of the Heap


China Moves to the Top of the Heap
© mamanamsai; lianez

A new nation is king of the hill in terms of base oil capacity, after China surpassed the United States in 2021 following a decade-long surge in investment.

Two more expansions and an operational change at a third plant last year brought annual nameplate capacity in China to 14 million metric tons, slightly ahead of the United States, according to Lubes’n’Greases’ Base Stock Plant Data.

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Base Oils Emerge from Pandemic

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China’s capacity has tripled since 2010, and its supply base has undergone an upgrade that is nearly as dramatic from mostly API Group I oils to two-thirds Group II and III. Another plant is due to expand this year, and observers say they expect further investment in Group III capacity in coming years.

The country has long been one of the world’s largest base oil importers, but domestic capacity is creating competition for refiners exporting to China. Numerous Chinese plants are operating a significantly below capacity, and operators are clawing for more business. Exports have been scant to date, but several companies are now trying to develop overseas sales.

Read our magazine feature article about the rebound of refining in Lubes’n’Greases’ Special Report: Base Oils Emerge from Pandemic, which also contains updates on base oil price trends and improved prospects for rerefiners.

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