Lubes Bloom in Thailand


SINGAPORE – Thailand is a fiercely competitive lubricant market, where makers of 170 brands are expected to sell close to 610 million liters of finished lubes in 2013.

Songkrit Boonyabaramee, vice president for lubricants marketing and technical service with government-owned PTT Public Co. Ltd., offered an insiders view of his countrys lubricant and base oil markets at the ICIS Asian Base Oils & Lubricants Conference here in late June.

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Finished lubricant sales volumes have risen from 504 million liters in 2007 to 572 million liters in 2012, and Boonyabaramee predicted a hike to 610 million liters this year. Five major oil companies active in Thailand – PTT, Shell, Esso/Mobil, Chevron and Bangchak – together sold 350 million liters of lubes last year, up from 300 million liters in 2005. (Boonyabaramee singled out this group of competitors because they have total petroleum product sales in Thailand in excess of 100,000 metric tons per year.)

PTT Lubricants is Thailands dominant supplier; in 2012 it sold 143 million liters to claim 25 percent of the domestic lube market. Other top suppliers were: Shell (19.5 percent), Castrol/BP (10 percent), Esso/Mobil (7.4 percent), Chevron (6 percent), Idemitsu (5 percent), Pulzar (4.7 percent), Bangchak (4.6 percent), Trane (3.6 percent), Veloil (0.6 percent). All others provided the remaining 13-plus percent.

Looking only at the market share of the five dominant majors (350 million liters in 2012), Boonyabaramee noted that PTTs slice of this pie has grown significantly since 2002. In that year, PTT had 15 percent of the majors-only pie, while Shell accounted for a third, Esso/Mobil for a quarter, and Chevron for 21 percent.

By 2012, PTTs share of the majors market had soared to 39 percent; Shell had 30 percent, Esso/Mobil fell to 11.5 percent, and the other two, Chevron and Bangchak, were well under 10 percent each.

Customers in Thailand are most concerned with product quality, low price, easy-to-find products, and promotions, he said. Thailand is a very competitive market.

Thailands blenders buy base oils from two domestic base oil plants. PTTs subsidiary Thai Lube Base Oil Co. has 270,000 tons per year of API Group I capacity, and publicly traded IRPC has 320,000 t/y of capacity, also all Group I. Last year, Thail Lube Base Oil exported 44 percent of its total production, and IRPC exported 51 percent.

Boonyabaramee noted that Thai base oil producers have plans to upgrade with Korean help, but there are no specifics available yet.

PTT has two blending and packaging plants in Thailand. The Thai Lube blending plant is fully automatic, with blending and filling capacity of 50 million liters per year per shift. PTTs Phrakanong blending plant is semi-automatic, with capacity to blend and fill 70 million liters per year per shift.

PTT has strong relationships and good management with its suppliers, Boonyabaramee continued, noting that it has long-term contracts with Chevron Oronite, Infineum and Lubrizol for supply of additives, as well as with both Thai base oil refiners.

In conclusion, Boonyabaramee described PTTs response to the major floods that devastated Thailand from July to December of 2011. PTT focused on relief and rescue in the early stages of the disaster, and on restoration in later stages. PTT spent 700 million baht (U.S. $22.6 million) to support the country through the crisis, and PTT Lubricants saw its sales drop by 6.5 percent due to the floods.

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