NPRA: Lube Sales Sank in 2001


U.S. lubricant sales volumes for the fourth quarter of 2001 were 2.9 percent lower than in the same period of 2000, according to the latest Quarterly Index of Lubricant Sales report. The report, released by the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association last week, said sales volumes for the entire year were down 4.4 percent.

The numbers were no surprise to those who follow the industry. Geeta S. Agashe, Director of Petroleum and Energy at Kline and Co. consultants, said the data were consistent with the firms own estimates. She said the decline was due to the recession that began in early 2001, although she added that lubricants consumption in the United States is not so closely tied to the economy as in Latin America or Asia-Pacific.

All in all, [it was] not a good year for lubricant marketers, Agashe said.

According to NPRA, fourth quarter sales volumes of automotive lubricants were 1.7 percent lower than in the same period of 2000. For the entire year, automotive lube sales were down 2.2 percent. Kline found that the recession reduced commercial trucking activity and caused car drivers to delay oil changes.

The NPRA report said sales volumes in the industrial segment fell 4.7 percent for the quarter and 7.4 percent for the year. Breaking down that category, sales of industrial lubes decreased 2 percent for the quarter and 4.7 percent for the year, while process oils were off by 7.4 percent and 10.1 percent.

Agashe said some end user industries – including power generation, pharmaceuticals and food processing – andthe lube marketers serving them benefited. The overall industrial segment took a huge hit, however, due to drops in car and truck manufacturing.

Grease sales volumes were 3.6 percent lower for the fourth quarter and down 11.2 percent for the year.

Base oil production finished the year down 2.7 percent but was 8.8 percent higher in the fourth quarter than in the same period of 2000. Production of paraffinic oils jumped 15.2 percent in the quarter and climbed0.2 percent to 51.7 million barrelsfor the year. Naphthenics were off 12.2 percent for the quarter and fell 13.4 percent to 12.3 million barrels for the year.

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