Process Oils Drag Down Lube Sales Again


Led by another significant drop in demand for process oils, U.S. lubricant sales volumes dipped 0.2 percent in the second quarter of 2005 compared to the same period of 2004, according to the latest statistics from the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association.

The associations Quarterly Index of Lubricant Sales, released Friday, showed sales volumes of process oils dropping 6.4 percent for the three months ended June 30. Excluding process oils, sales of lubricants and greases grew a modest 1 percent.

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Sales of automotive lubricants rose 2.3 percent compared to the second quarter of last year, while sales of industrial lubes, excluding process oils, fell 3.2 percent. Grease demand edged up 0.8 percent.

Overall, industry sales were 2.2 percent lower than the average quarterly performance for 2002, the index year for the survey.

Base oil production in the United States was 16.4 million barrels, up 6.9 percent compared to the second quarter of 2004, according to data that the association obtained from the U.S. Energy Information Agency. Wax output jumped 31 percent to 1.5 million barrels.

Last weeks report also included revised numbers showing the industry fared worse during the first quarter than initially reported. In August the association said first quarter sales would have grown by 0.4 percent compared to the first quarter of 2004 if not for a 17 percent decline in process oil sales. The updated first-quarter statistics indicated a 2.2 percent drop in sales of lubricants and greases, excluding process oils.

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