Slippage Seen Again in Lube Sales


Lubricant sales volumes in the United States were 4.3 percent lower in 2003 than in 2002, according to preliminary estimates released last week by the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association.

The Quarterly Index of Lubricant Sales, distributed March 31, showed that sales volumes for the fourth quarter of 2003 were down 3 percent from the fourth quarter of 2002, meaning that demand for each quarter of 2003 was lower on a year-to-year basis. Full-year sales for 2003 were 11.5 percent less than the total for 1997, which serves as the surveys index year. Sales in 2002 were 7.5 percent less than the index.

The association noted that the full-year totals are preliminary data. Revisions may be made when the group publishes its 2003 report on lubricating oil sales in the fall.

Sales volumes for 2003 were off by 4.3 percent in both the automotive and industrial segments and 7 percent for greases. Within the industrial segment, sales of process oils dropped 3.6 percent, while other industrial lubricants were down 5.2 percent.

Base oil sales also declined in 2003, according to data that the survey gathered from the U.S. Energy Information Agency. Sales of paraffinics dipped a scant 0.2 percent to 50.9 million barrels, but naphthenics fell 21.2 percent to 9.7 million barrels. Wax production dropped 9.5 percent to 5.8 million barrels.

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