U.S. Lube Sales Rose in First Quarter


First-quarter lubricant sales volumes in the United States rose 2.2 percent compared to the same period of 2005, according to the latest figures from the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association. The Quarterly Index of Lubricant Sales, released Monday, showed increased demand for automotive lubes, greases and process oils.

Grease sales took the largest proportionate jump, with first-quarter demand rising 16.8 percent from the first three months of 2005. Sales of process oils increased 7.8 percent, while automotive lubricants inched up 2.2 percent.

The lone negative was the industrial lubricant segment, not including process oils, where demand slid 3.2 percent.

Despite the industrys improvement, overall sales volumes were still down 6.5 percent from the first quarter of 2002, the index year for the survey. Grease sales have fallen 13.2 percent over that span, while demand for industrial lubes and process oils are off by 12.1 percent and 10.8 percent, respectively. The automotive segment has declined 3.4 percent.

The report also pegged base oil production during the first quarter at 14.7 million barrels, an increase of 4.5 percent from the year-ago period. According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, paraffinic output was essentially flat at 12 million barrels, while naphthenic production climbed 29 percent to 2.7 million barrels.

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