U.S. Lube Sales Sluggish


First-quarter U.S. lubricant sales volumes increased 1.3 percent compared to thesame period last year, according to the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, but the growth was mostly due to demand for process oils.

NPRA’s Quarterly Index of Lubricant Sales, released last week, showed industrial process oil sales for the first three months of 2003 up 14.1 percent over the same period of 2002. That increase offset an 8.9 percent drop in sales of industrial lubricants, for an overall rise of 3.2 percent in the markets industrial segment. Sales of automotive lubes grew a scant 0.9 percent. Grease sales were off by 4.9 percent.

Overall base oil production for the quarter was 14.4 million barrels, a bare 0.3 percent higher than in the first quarter of 2002. Paraffinic production rose 2.6 percent, while production of naphthenics fell 11.9 percent. Wax production decreased 25.9 percent to 1.2 million barrels.

The reports data on sales of finished lubricants are based on information provided by survey respondents, which account for 75 percent of volumes reported in the associations more comprehensive annual Lubricating Oil Sales Report. Base oil production information is obtained from the U.S. Department of Energy.

First-quarter automotive lubricant sales volumes were even with the first quarter of 1997, the index year for the survey. Sales for the industrial segment have fallen to 89.6 percent of the level of the first quarter of 1997. Grease sales have plummeted to 57 percent.

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