Indias Base Oils Rise to Challenges


MUMBAI, India – India is now the worlds third-largest lubricant market, and its base oil producers are gearing up to provide the high quality oils needed for the latest fuel-efficient vehicles and sophisticated industrial applications.

Sanjay Kumar, deputy general manager for retail lubes with Hindustan Petroleum Corp., told the first ICIS Indian Base Oils & Lubricants Conference here last week that we have an action plan for quality assurance and promise to meet quality.

Hindustan Petroleum estimates that Indias total lubricant demand is 2.8 million metric tons per year, about 6 percent of global demand. That makes India the worlds third largest lube market, after the United States and China, and ahead of Japan and Russia.

Indias lube demand breaks down as follows, said Kumar: Automotive lubes, 1.18 million t/y; industrial lubes, 570,000 t/y; white oils, 450,000 t/y; process oils, 300,000 t/y; transformer oils, 200,000 t/y; and greases, 100,000 t/y.

India has a huge number of lubricant brands, but dominant brands include the countrys two national oil companies Indian Oil and Hindustan Oil, Bharat, BP Castrol, Shell and Pennzoil, Total, Elf, Valvoline, Gulf, Veedol, Eneos and many more. The top sellers last year, said Kumar, were Indian oil, supplying about 410,000 tons, Hindustan with 296,000 tons, Bharat Petroleum with 190,000 tons, Castrol with 184,000 tons and Shell with 100,000 tons.

Kumar highlighted the upgrades to API Groups II and III that have taken place at Indias base oil plants. He identified the countrys four base oil refineries and their current capacities:

Indias Base Oil Refiners

Group I*

Group II/III*

500 N Extract*

Hindustan Petroleum, Mumbai




Indian Oil, Haldia




Chennai Petroleum, Chennai




Bharat Petroleum, Mumbai








*capacities in thousands of metric tons per year

Kumar noted that Indian Oil and Hindustan Petroleum use ExxonMobil technology for both their Group I and Group II/III processes. Chennai Petroleums Group I plant uses Texaco technology. And Bharat Petroleum uses Chevron Lummus technology to make Group II and III base oils.

Despite the domestic producers moves to higher quality base stocks, India continues to be a significant base oil importer. In 2011-2012, Kumar said, Indias base oil requirements totaled about 2.55 million tons, of which 2.35 million was for domestic use and 225,000 for export. But the country produced just a bit over 1 million tons, resulting in imports of more than 1.5 million tons. Key sources for imported base oils include Korea, Singapore, U.A.E./Iran, United States, Taiwan and other countries.

Indias lube market is evolving rapidly, Kumar continued. Before 1992, the national companies, Indian Oil and Hindustan Petroleum, dominated. The lubricants market was deregulated in 1992, and from 1992 to 1995 the market saw a shift from retail outlets to the bazaar. Between 1995 and 2000, there was a consolidation in the bazaar market. The next five years saw growing numbers of genuine oil tie-ups, and since 2005 the market has seen increasing tie-ups with automakers for factory fill, as well as aftermarket tie-ups.

Indias vehicle population is over 164 million units today. Of these, more than 77 percent are two-wheelers and another 3 percent are three-wheelers, passenger cars account for 15 percent, and commercial vehicles for 5 percent. Drivers for better quality lubricants, which require better quality base oils, include government regulations, new engine and drive train designs and consumer demand, said Kumar. Indias base oil industry is committed to delivering that quality, he noted.

Related Topics

Asia    Business    Finished Lubricants    India    Region