Blenders Brace as EU Adopts REACH

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The Council of the European Union on Monday unanimously adopted the REACH legislation (registration, evaluation and authorization of chemicals), cornerstone of a new European chemicals policy, which replaces about 40 legislative instruments now in force. The new law, which goes into effect June 1 of next year, has far-reaching impacts for Europes petroleum additives, grease and lubes industries, and will also affect companies that send chemicals, or equipment that contains chemicals, into Europe.

REACH is the European Unions comprehensive new legislation that aims to avoid chemical contamination of air, water, soil and the human environment, to preserve biodiversity and to safeguard workers and citizens health and safety.

REACH will apply to all substances, and for substances manufactured or imported in quantities over one metric ton per year it introduces special registration and evaluation requirements. A Council statement said the regulation will apply to about 30,000 substances.

Mike Morris is a U.K.-based consultant who is chairing a Grease Consortium set up by the European Lubricating Grease Institute to share the work and cost of registration and testing of soaps used in grease manufacturing, as required under REACH.

Morris said REACH will impact the whole of the lube industry in different ways, including the grease industry. Some regulations will have direct impacts, and others will have indirect impacts, he said. The biggest impact probably will be on the additive industry, the grease industry, and probably on base oils, on the refining side. It impacts on everything – you cant get away from it.

An example of its direct impact are chemicals imported into Europe, as part of hardware or equipment. As soon as it hits Europe, the regulation covers them, he explained. The likely scenario is it may not be a chemical itself that comes into Europe. It may be imported in the form of equipment, or machinery, and regulations call it an article. If that piece of machinery is imported into Europe and contains a chemical that during its life could be released into the environment or come into contact with human beings, that chemical must comply with REACH. Its not just importation of the chemical itself, its the possible importation of an article as its defined in the regulation – some form of equipment or machinery that contains the chemical, he added.

If it is a necessity to register a chemical, then theres a possibility that [the importer] may have to spend money in order to get it registered because of the testing required, which can be very expensive, Morris said. If you dont have that testing, you wont be able to register that [substance] within the EU, and you wont be able to import it into Europe.

Morris said that while the legislation document is an intimidating read, at about 400 pages, its important to understand its impact in and outside of Europe. I think its an important thing for the industry in America to realize it can impact on them, he said. Morris spoke recently at the NLGI annual meeting, to try to awaken people to the fact its a European regulation but it can impact on American manufacturers. Its important they are aware of it.

Rod Parker, executive director of the United Kingdom Lubricants Association, observed that the process requires blenders to pass information on product use back up the supply chain, so that these uses can be included in the registration process. It is all-important to get specific uses included in the registration process, otherwise they are excluded from this use.

Parker said that at some later date, blenders will have to issue comprehensive safety information to product users, essentially the information gathered from their raw material suppliers through the REACH process. That information will likely be provided in a standardized Hazard Classification and Labeling System format, once the format is finalized.

For the rest of our sector, all companies, including U.S. companies, whose activity includes reacting lubricant components, such as additive manufacturers, grease makers and some other types of lubricants, will have to adopt the full REACH procedures, if they wish to supply their products into the EU market, Parker said. There is scope for groups of manufacturers of the same products – such as grease makers – to form a group and combine their REACH compliance procedures, in order to spread the costs over a number of manufacturing companies.

Rich Kraska of Kraska Consultants, Bonita Springs, Fla., said REACH will negatively impact U.S. marketers of lubricants who export to Europe unless theyre prepared to deal with the regulatory challenges.

They need to make sure for every chemical they buy, that somewhere in the supply chain, that the manufacturer is going to be part of the registration process, Kraska said. The way that it is set up, its easier for European users to buy domestically.

National Petrochemical & Refiners Association President Bob Slaughter said that NPRA has stressed that the REACH program needs to be workable and transparent because NPRA members both produce in and import into the European Union.

While the final legislation does not include a specified provision that would otherwise accept data generated by international chemical programs, recent developments confirm that existing data from test results will be accepted by the EU regulatory authorities, Slaughter said. This is absolutely critical in avoiding unnecessary and overlapping testing requirements resulting in needless animal testing. NPRA hopes that as REACH is implemented, regulatory entities will continue their efforts to design a REACH program that satisfies the needs of the European Union without redundant and confusing requirements.

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