NPRA: U.S. Lube Sales Slumped


Apparently it is too soon to declare a rebound for the U.S. lubricant industry, at least according to the latest sales data from the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association.

The organization on Friday released its Quarterly Lubricant Sales Survey showing that demand for the third quarter of 2004 was 1.9 percent lower than the same period of 2003. In the second quarter, the market had posted its first uptick in two-and-a-half years.

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Every major category of the lubricants market did worse in the third quarter of last year than in the third quarter of 2003. Sales volumes for the automotive and industrial segments both dropped 0.6 percent, while grease sales dipped 2.5 percent. Within the industrial segment, process oils were off by 8.1 percent.

Total third-quarter sales were down 10.9 percent from the quarterly average of 1997, base year for the survey.

The survey noted that the U.S. Energy Information Agency reported base oil production of 15.8 million barrels during the third quarter, a scant 0.3 percent increase from the same period of 2003. Paraffinic production dipped 1.1 percent to 13.2 million barrels. Naphthenic output rose 7.6 percent to 2.6 million barrels.

NPRA emphasizes that its quarterly reports are meant to be used as a gauge of market trends, rather than a measurement of total sales, due to the fact that relatively few marketers participate. The association says that volumes covered by the quarterly reports account for more than 72 percent of those covered in its more comprehensive annual report on lubricating oil sales.

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