A French Brand Name from a Russian Blend Plant


A French Brand Name from a Russian Blend Plant

Top Lubricants unveiled recently a new Russian brand that sounds very French – Lemarc, which is produced at the former TotalEnergies blending plant in Vorsino, Kaluga oblast.

The Russian company emphasized its commitment to the “deep continuity and adherence to the quality of the French lube marketer’s products.”

While the company’s Oct. 19 press release doesn’t specifically mention Total, it stressed that the unveiling happened on the fifth anniversary of the “official opening of the plant in 2018, built by a large French oil and chemicals concern.” Lubes made at the plant, it said, will be formulated with “supplies of the world’s leading component makers previously used by the French company.”

European Union sanctions against Russia over its war in Ukraine specifically restrict supply of new technologies to the country, including to its oil refining sector. The world’s four main suppliers of lubricant additive packages – Infineum, Lubrizol, Chevron Oronite and Afton Chemical – all exited Russia last year, as did a number of big Western lube suppliers, leaving a big void in the market. In the last few years at least 20% of Russia’s 1.7 million metric tons of annual lube demand was covered by imports.

Top Lubricants is one of the many newcomers – domestic and foreign mostly Asian – that pledged to fill the gap in a market increasingly filled with dubious products and outright fakes, as the logistic channels were completely altered, and the supply of the latest specification Western products became difficult and very costly.

The company stressed that it found a solution to this problem through a successful “reconfiguration of the logistic chains.” Industry insiders said that this is a euphemism for re-export of products meant for Russia through third countries such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Georgia or Turkey.

“One of the most important challenges in the current geopolitical situation is the necessity to set up an uninterrupted supply of components by the world’s leading [additive] makers previously used by the French concern to make premium high-end products,” said Egor Popov, Top’s head of marketing and sales, and ex-official of TotalEnergies Marketing Russia division, which ran the plant in Vorsino. “Thanks to that and to our collaboration with the automobile manufacturers, at this moment we are in a process of acquiring permits and approvals for Lemarc.”

In March last year, the French company handed over the plant to its Russian management that at that time started to operate under Top Lubricants, state news agency Tass reported.

The world largest lubricant marketers – Shell, ExxonMobil, BP and Total – all left Russia in 2022 in protest of the Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine earlier that year. They were followed by the leading lube additive suppliers Infineum – Chevron Oronite, Lubrizol and Afton Chemical – which supply most of the world’s lubricant additive packages, especially for finished lubes meeting the latest industry and original equipment manufacturer performance standards.

Top didn’t reply in a press time for more details what logistic channels it uses to purchase base oils and lube additives of the Western makers. Total didn’t reply to an email inquiry.

While Shell sold its retail business in Russia to Lukoil, along with its 180,000 t/y lubricant plant in Torzhok, and 411 filling stations and other retail assets, Total probably took another turn – it just transferred the assets to an affiliated local company run by entrusted management, said an industry insider.

“Many Western companies hope that they can return to their position and role in the lucrative Russian market as soon as the war is over,” the insider told Lube Report last week, asking for anonymity.

He said that Total might be one of those companies because “there isn’t any other explanation why the Russian company so easily emulates the name, image and symbols of the French company.”

Lemarc is a French expression for “the brand.”

Total opened its 40,000 t/y lubricant plant in Vorsino in 2018. The price tag for the project was U.S. $50 million, and the facility has a scale-up capacity option to 70,000 t/y.

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