U.S. Lube Sales Flat in 2000


In a performance that was even more ho-hum than usual, U.S. lubricants consumption was flat in 2000, according to the National Petrochemical and Refiners Associations latest Report on U.S. Lubricating Oil Sales.

Demand in the United States, by far the worlds largest lube market, had increased only marginally in recent years – between 1.2 percent and 2.5 percent annually from 1996 to 1999. The report released last week, however, showed that the market would have shrunk in 2000 if not for 2.2 percent growth for process oils. Overall, year-to-year sales of industrial lubricants grew 1.2 percent while sales of automotive products fell 0.8 percent. Grease volumes dropped 4.4 percent.

It probably was a little worse than usual, acknowledged Mark Murray of ChevronTexaco Global Lubricants, a member of the associations Statistics Subcommittee. Considering the economy didnt start to tank until this year, its a little disappointing. Im not looking forward to seeing what 2001 looks like next year.

The comparative year-to-year results were based on analysis of volumes sold by companies that reported data for both 1999 and 2000. Total volume reported by all companies for 2000 was 2.53 billion gallons.

The breakdown by product type changed little from 1999. Automotive lubricants continued to account for 56.2 percent of the market. Multi-grade engine oils claimed 38.5 percent, aircraft engine oils, gasoline two-stroke and automotive gear oils 2.6 percent, both unchanged from last year. The portion for monograde engine oils dropped from 5 percent to 4.5 percent, while transmission and hydraulic fluids increased from 10.1 percent to 10.6 percent.

Industrial lubricants made up the remaining 43.8 percent, with process oils accounting for 20.7 percent of sales in 2000. Grease claimed 1.9 percent, industrial engine oils 6 percent, general industrial oils 12.1 percent and metalworking oils 3.1 percent.

There were significant fluctuations within several subcategories. Sales of aircraft engine oils jumped 16.3 percent, while volume of automotive transmission and hydraulic fluids rose 3.7 percent. The volume of gear oils declined as did both multigrade and monograde engine oils.

In the industrial sector, sales of fire resistant hydraulic fluid, compressor oils and turbine, circulating and bearing fluids each grew, while demand for industrial hydraulic fluid edged down.

Murray said that such statistics indicate niche opportunities within the industry. Moreover, he said, even in markets where growth is flat or negative, some companies may be growing their business, although they do so at the expense of others.

I think there are companies out there that had a decent year but its at the expense of marginal players – the companies that are losing money and cant do much other than try to cut costs further. When things are like this, its a very competitive marketplace.

The NPRA report is the most comprehensive source of information about sales of finished lubricants in the U.S. market, capturing approximately 90 percent of total sales, according to the association. This years document is based on reports of 80 producers. The 79-page document is on sale. For information: NPRA, 1899 L St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036. Phone: (202) 457-0480. Fax: (202) 457-0486. Website: www.npradc.org

Related Topics

Market Topics