Russian Motor Group Complains of Lube Shortage


Russian Motor Group Complains of Lube Shortage
New cars park near a car dealership in Moscow in April this year. © AntonSAN

A Russian motorist group complained to the central government last week that the country faces a growing shortage of automotive engine oils and quality lubricant additives.

National Automobile Union Vice President Anton Shaparin sent a letter to Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin appealing for action, stating that motorists, especially long-haul truck drivers “face increasing difficulties to get hold on the customary and high-quality imported oils, which are usually out of stock in specialized stores or sometimes sold as fake products.”

Shaparin said the problem stems partly from a lack of lubricant additive packages used in engine oils proven to meet industry or original equipment manufacturer performance standards. The globe’s four largest suppliers of such chemicals – Lubrizol, Infineum, Chevron Oronite and Afton Chemical – are all Western companies that exited Russia last year in protest of its invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, governments in numerous countries imposed economic sanctions against Russia.

“Prior to the introduced sanctions, 60% of [Russia’s] additives demand was covered by imports, while this number was 90% for some of the most complex formulations,” Shaparin said in the letter.

Moscow invaded Ukraine in February 2022, starting a war that is still ongoing. Numerous countries, mostly in the West, introduced sanctions on the Russian banking, energy and military sectors.

Big oil majors such as Shell, ExxonMobil and TotalEnergies joined the protests by exiting Russia by June 2022, and the largest lube additive package suppliers followed suit. Russian lubricant manufacturers were left scrambling for replacement products, which they obtained mostly from sources in China and the Middle East.

What ensued were serious shortages of synthetic and semi-synthetic engine oils certified as meeting OEM and industry specs – products that are recommended for the latest models of Western and Japanese vehicles.

In its letter, NAS complained that “Russia is now compelled to seek new ways to supply these products and that logistic channels are not always reliable.”

The group proposed waiving income taxes for domestic lube marketers and subsidies for the Russian petroleum industry.

It also reminded Mishustin that that the industry faces most severe shortages in the synthetic oils niche, especially a lack of products made with polyalphaolefins, complex esters and ether base stocks.

Russian combined demand for base oils and finished lubricants fell around 7% in 2022 to 1.8 million metric tons, according to Topecopro, an industry association promoting sustainable business practices. A fall-off in demand would tend to ease shortages, but lubricant imports to the country fell by a greater amount – 11% to 332,000 tons, according to B2X, a Moscow-based consultancy.