Grease Production Edges Up in Europe

Lubricating grease production in Europe increased 1.2 percent in 2018, according to the National Lubricating Grease Institutes annual production survey, which was released this week. Production at plants in Europe shifted to grease made with calcium soap thickeners and lithium soap complex, while the Middle East and Africa experienced an uptick in those made with complex lithium soap thickeners.

The survey was released Monday at the NLGI Annual Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States.

The 48 European grease producers participating in the survey reported making 518 million pounds of grease last year, or 20 percent of the worldwide total of just under 2.6 billion pounds. The 14 grease producers participating in the Middle East and Africa reported making 119 million pounds, or 4.6 percent of the global total.

The report is the worlds most comprehensive survey of grease production, but officials with the United States-based NLGI always emphasize that grand totals should not be used to measure year-to-year shifts since participants vary from one year to the next.

The association shows totals of figures reported by all companies that have participated for three years running and advises that those numbers work better for year-to-year comparisons. Based on that comparative data, grease production in Europe increased almost 1.2 percent in 2018.

Grease production in Europe continues to grow, and is still recovering quite nicely from the recession in 2008, said Chuck Coe of independent research and consulting firm Grease Technology Solutions, which conducted the survey.

The Middle East and Africa reported a decrease of 7.2 percent in grease production volumes for 2018.

Grease made with conventional lithium soap thickener remained dominant in both regions. Based on comparative data for Europe, the percentage declined to 51.3 percent for conventional lithium and increased to 17.8 percent for lithium complex. In the Middle East and Africa, the percentage made with conventional lithium and lithium complex fell to 66.7 percent and 19 percent, respectively.

Use of calcium thickeners edged up in both regions - to 14.6 percent in Europe and 7.6 percent in the Middle East and Africa. Polyurea greases accounted for 5.8 percent of European greases. In the Middle East and Africa - which dont produce polyurea greases - production of those using organophillic clay thickeners slid to 1.4 percent.

The survey also compiled production data by base oil type, with about 90 percent of all participants reporting this type of data. Of the 419 million pounds of grease produced in Europe for which base fluid type was reported, 86.5 percent used conventional, 7.8 percent used synthetic, 3.1 percent used semi-synthetic and 2.6 percent used biobased fluids. For the Middle East and Africa, 96.7 percent of the 119 million pounds grease production sub-total used conventional base fluid, 2.8 percent used semi-synthetic, and 0.5 percent used synthetic. No grease using biobased fluids were reported in the region.

The full 30-page report of 2018 grease production includes prior-year data going back to 2015, and will be available to download by the end of June at www.nlgi.org. 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.

Lithium grease

Photo: Shutterstock/Jirakit Suparatanameta