European Grease Output Nearly Steady in 2022


European Grease Output Nearly Steady in 2022
Green grease used in industrial applications. © aumkabaum

European grease production declined slightly in 2022, dipping less than a third of one percent compared to the prior year, according to the National Lubricating Grease Institute’s Grease Production Survey Report, an annual publication released last week.

Production of greases using lithium soap thickeners dropped more than 1% – likely associated with rising costs of lithium due to increasing electric vehicle sales – with production calcium thickeners taking up the slack.

Considered the most comprehensive production survey of the global grease industry, this year’s version received responses from 41 of the 58 companies asked to participate, one less participant than for 2021. Companies that participated in every year from 2019 to 2022 reported producing 214.5 million kilograms of grease in 2022, just under the 215.1 million kg that the same companies reported making in 2021.

Sixty-eight percent of the volume produced by those companies in 2022 was made with lithium soap thickeners, down from 69% the previous year. The portion made with conventional lithium thickeners dropped from 52% to 51%, while the portion made with complex lithium thickeners increased barely to 18%.

The second-most popular categories of thickener was calcium, used in 16% of output last year compared with 15% in 2021. Aluminum soaps trailed at 5% of volumes for the second year in a row.

Base fluid type was reported for 86% of the grease production reported in Europe. Of that, 80% used conventional base fluids, almost completely even with its 2021 share.

Synthetic fluids were the runners-up with 12% of the market, up about one percent, with semi-synthetic fluids and bio-based fluids each accounting for just under four percent.

Chuck Coe, president of consulting firm Grease Technology Solutions LLC, the conductor of the survey on behalf of NLGI, cautioned on the differences between this year’s survey and previous years regarding total, or non-comparative, production numbers.

“Twenty companies with 22 plants that participated in the survey between 2019 and 2021 did not participate in the 2022 survey,” he noted. “These non-participants were largely from North America, Europe, India, and Africa & Middle East. The 2022 production of these non-participants is estimated to be about 189 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.”

Still, 230 unique company and region combinations responded to the survey, including 10 companies which participated in 2022 but not in the previous year.

In Africa and the Middle East there was a sharp decline in production, though Coe chalked that up to decreased participation in the combined region over the past couple of years, and the number of respondents is too small to make year-over-year comparisons.

Lithium-based thickeners continue to dominate Africa and the Middle East with an 87% share of greases made there, the same share as the prior year. Calcium thickeners accounted for almost 8% of the market, while aluminum thickeners dropped to under half of one percent.

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.

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