Russias Automotive Lube Demand Grows

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MOSCOW – Spurred by greater ownership of private vehicles, tougher emissions mandates and newer engine designs, Russia’s appetite for automotive lubes is growing in both size and sophistication, says an industry insider.

Speaking here Nov. 9 at the Lubricants Russia 2011 conference hosted by RPI, Mike Boyer of Lubrizol said that increased car sales are resulting in greater demand for high-quality oils in Russia and elsewhere in Europe. “Emissions limits continue to tighten as new legislation is introduced, while new hardware provides significant challenges for engine oils,” said Boyer, who is product manager for the additive company in Derby, U.K.

Car ownership in Russia has seen dramatic changes in the past three decades. “From just under 31 cars per 1,000 people in 1980, there were 240 cars per 1,000 people in Russia in 2010,” Boyer said. By comparison, there were 763 cars/1,000 people in the United States in 2010 and 518 in Germany, while in China it was just 42 cars per 1,000 people.

Lubrizol predicts passenger car sales in Russia will continue to grow. “From around 1.8 million vehicles sold in 2010, we forecast the country’s new car sales will grow to above 3.5 million in 2015 – almost double,” Boyer said. The country’s peak sales year was 2008, when around 2.7 million passenger cars were sold, but 2009 saw record-low sales of fewer than 1.4 million units, due to the global recession and subsequent economic crisis in Russia.

Currently, this market is dominated by native Russian automaker Avtovaz, which enjoys 23 percent of sales. The No. 2 badge in sales is Hyundai (10 percent).

Together, Western Europe’s automakers hold about 25 percent of Russia’s market, although none has a share larger than 4 percent. Yet by 2015, such OEMs could comprise about 30 percent of car sales. “Volkswagen for example is expecting to double its market share from 4 percent in 2008 to 8 percent in 2015, while France’s Renault is expected to increase its sales from 6 percent in 2008 to 8 percent in 2015,” Boyer said.

“Emission limits in Russia continue to tighten across the entire country,” Boyer observed, and in order to comply, Russia will need to use cleaner engines and aftertreatment devices such as diesel particulate filters which have long been in place in Western Europe. “In 2010 over 70 percent of the car park in Western Europe was represented by vehicles meeting the Euro 3 specification or later,” he confirmed.

Advances in engine hardware, such as gasoline direct injection (GDI), turbocharging and advanced pollution controls will continue to drive demand for higher-quality lubricants throughout Europe, according to Lubrizol.

GDI involves injection of the gasoline directly into the combustion chamber, rather than into an intake port. It offers power and efficiency benefits, but requires engine oils with greater deposit protection and soot handling abilities, which means new detergent and dispersant technologies are needed.

Compact and hot-running turbocharged engines demand greater protection against thermal degradation, and thus will need new antioxidant technology and high-quality base oils, Boyer observed.

Put these two hardwares together – turbocharger plus direct injection (T-GDI) – and the benefits become even more pronounced. “Adding a turbocharger gives the engine designer the ability to provide the right amount of air for optimum combustion. It further increases power and efficiency,” Boyer said, and delivers power density of up to double of that using port fuel injectors.

However, the T-GDI engine runs even hotter and harder, leading to increased oxidation and a greater performance challenge for engine oil. “Turbocharging increases the severity on the lubricant because a critically hot area for the oil is the turbocharger bearing. Furthermore, accelerated oxidation rates can lead to a rapid degradation of the oil, causing deposits in the turbocharger and other areas. That’s why this technology requires good kinematic viscosity,” he said.

Another factor is the downsizing of engines. “More torque from a downsized engine means higher loads on smaller bearings, and it is a challenge to the lubricant film strength,” Boyer said. Downsizing demands increased wear protection from the engine oil.

Almost all the engine technology challenges – sludge formation, piston deposits, fuel dilution, lower quality gasoline, higher soot levels, fuel economy demands and emission control systems – are going to require improvements in oil additives such as dispersants, detergents, antioxidants and friction modifiers, he said, along with high-quality base oils.

In pursuit of better fuel economy, European OEMs already have moved to lower viscosity grades for light-duty vehicles, Boyer said. “The OEMs today have a preference for SAE 5W-30 grades. Increased usage of 5W-30 and 5W-40 will result in greater demand for API Group III base oils.” There is a continuing need as well for higher-performing, cost effective 10W-40s, “which will result in a growth in demand for API Group II base oils,” Boyer said.

Europes engine oil market is highly fragmented he added. The European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) maintains light- and heavy-duty engine oil categories, but Europe’s OEMs tend to layer their own requirements on top of ACEA’s basic performance levels. BMW, VW, Daimler, GM’s Opel division, Porsche, Ford, Renault and Peugeot/PSA all have their own engine oil specifications.

What they all have in common is a need for engine oil technologies to maintain durability and protect aftertreatment devices – so demand for high-quality engine oils is bound to rise, Boyer concluded.

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