Asian Imports Ascend in Russia


Asian Imports Ascend in Russia
Motor oil bottles on shelves at a filling station in St. Petersburg, Russia. Besides Asian imports, domestic brands also dominate the Russian lubricant market. Lube Report Staff Photo/Boris Kamchev

Russia imported 282,000 tons of motor oils in 2022, and more than half of that was shipped from Asia, according to a new study, reflecting the ongoing transformation of the country’s lubricant market after a number of Western suppliers exited last year.

Imports from Western nations decreased by a similar amount.

Western companies that had been major players in the market – such as Shell, Total, Castrol and ExxonMobil – left when they withdrew to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. This void is now being filled by a number of domestic and international suppliers, and some of the main replacements come from Asia.

One industry analyst told Lube Report Monday that the shift is “irrevocable.”

“The market is turning upside down, from being dominated by European and Western brands, to becoming overwhelmed by Asian brands,” said Artem Mazaev, a Moscow-based consultant.

He said that this process of shifting towards Asia that is taking place is “unusually fast and it is probably irrevocable.”

In 2022, Russia imported 189,000 tons of passenger car motor oils and 93,000 tons of commercial vehicle lubricants, according to Moscow-based consultancy B2X. In 2021 the results were 182,000 tons and 108,000 tons, respectively.

In its annual study, Russian Market of Motor Oils for Passenger Cars and Commercial Vehicles, Autostat, a Moscow-based firm in Russia’s automotive sectors, found that European suppliers held 71% of the total motor oil imports in the country in 2021. This percentage fell to 46% in 2022. North American motor oil imports to Russia also fell, from 3% in 2021 to 1% in 2022.

The country was compelled to search for new sources for imported motor oil, and it found them in Asia, Autostat said in its study.

“The motor oil supplies from the Asian countries more than doubled in 2022 – from 26% to 53% of the total imports,” the firm noted. “These suppliers became leaders in the total imported volumes.”

Mazaev said that the temporary deficit of lubricant supply in Russia during the first few months in 2022 was quickly compensated in the start of the New Year by suppliers from the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, South Korea, China and India. Some companies such as SK Group and a Chevron joint venture in South Korea were accused by some observers of cashing out war profits by expanding their motor oil exports to Russia despites the Western oil major’s pullback.

The market gap left by them was also filled by many new domestic players, besides the large domestic majors such as Lukoil, Gazprom Neft and Rosneft, bolstering their supplies.

“Local Russian production and shipments from these countries increased dramatically driven by this new demand,” Mazaev said. Also, “the increased imports of Chinese cars and trucks in Russia brought with them the Chinese lube brands such as Sinopec, Lopal and others.”

He said that the only reason why European motor oils brands are continuing their presence in the country is the significant share of the European automotive brands, such as French Renault and Peugeot, Czech Skoda and German Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes Benz, still dominating the Russian passenger car feet.

“Shell, Mobil, Castrol, Total and other brands who left the country could be supplied to Russia through the so-called parallel import schemes. But in the situation when offices of these companies have left the country and nobody keeps control over sale of counterfeiting and fake or imitations of these brands, the consumers are wary of buying them,” Mazaev said.

Related Topics

Asia    Automotive Lubricants    Europe    Finished Lubricants    Region    Russia