EU Lube Market Shrinks


EDINBURGH – Lubricant sales volumes in the European Union declined 3.3 percent in the first nine months of 2004, compared to the same period of 2003, according to EuropaLub, a European lubricants organization. Much of the decline is attributed to a 13 percent slide in process oil sales volumes. Germany led with an 8 percent drop in total lube sales; sales in both Italy and the United Kingdom declined about 4.5 percent.

At the European Lubricating Grease Institutes Annual General Meeting here, Jean-Claude Dufour, general secretary of EuropaLub, offered a preview of Europes lubricant market in 2004. EuropaLub, based in Rueil Malmaison, France, collects, analyzes and distributes lube industry data.

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The 2004 decline continues a long-term trend. If we compare the results of 2003, the latest year for which full-year data is available, Dufour said, with those of 1979, year of the second oil crisis, lubricant sales were reduced by 930,000 [metric] tons, that is, a fall of approximately 17 percent.

From 1979 to 2003, automotive lubricant sales volumes have fallen 26 percent and industrial lubricants lost 18 percent. In contrast, Dufour noted, demand for process oils has increased by 35 percent in this period. However, process oil sales volumes dropped sharply in the first three quarters of 2004.

Dufour reported that automotive lubes made up 46 percent of Europes 4.7 million ton lubricant market, industrial lubes accounted for 37 percent, and process oils for 17 percent, in 2003.

In the first nine months of 2004, Europes total automotive lubricant sales volumes declined 1.6 percent compared to the first nine months of 2003. Germany again was most affected, reporting a 4.2 percent decline in automotive lube demand. It was followed by Spain with a 2.9 percent decline, and France with a 2 percent decline. All automotive product categories slumped except gear oils and greases, which both saw increases of nearly 5 percent.

Total industrial lubricant sales volumes in the first nine months of 2004 slipped less than 1 percent compared to the year-ago period. Italy reported a sharp decline of more than 11 percent, while other large EU member countries except the United Kingdom reported modest increases. Changes by product category varied widely: industrial gear oil sales volumes were up nearly 11 percent, while industrial greases were down over 12 percent.

Dragging the whole lube market down, Europes process oils market sunk 13 percent in the first nine months of 2004 vs. the year ago period. It was dragged down by the situation in Germany, where process oils sales fell 30 percent in the period.

Dufour reported that final 2004 data will be available in August. EuropaLubs annual report, a 44-page document, includes details about Europes finished lubricant, base oil and additives markets. Copies are 130 to companies in the lubricants industry and 230 to consultants and others outside the industry. For information, email EuropaLub at

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