REACH Countdown: Two Weeks to Go


PHILADELPHIA -With REACH (registration, evaluation and authorization of chemicals) legislation going into force June 1 in Europe, now is the time for lubricant and chemical manufacturers to communicate with suppliers to be sure they plan to comply with REACH and with European customers to understand their expectations, an industry expert warned.

In a presentation here on May 7, at the annual meeting of the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers, Rich Kraska of Kraska Consultants, Bonita Springs, Fla., discussed the implications of REACH for exporters of chemicals and lubricants into the European Union. REACH is the EUs 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.

The new law 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 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.

Kraska said companies exporting to Europe should take the first step with their customers there. Remember what the responsibilities of your customers are in Europe – if they buy lubricants from an EU source, they need to do nothing under REACH except tell them how they use it, he explained. If they import it from you, theyre on the hook for REACH. It might be good if you started talking to them and not waiting for them to contact you.

He said the danger of waiting too long to have the discussion is that some European customers might assume U.S. suppliers wont preregister and could instead decide to look elsewhere. It would be good if youre proactive, Kraska said. If you dont have good answers for them on the first go-around, theyre going to say, we just need to move to a European supplier, and youre going to be out of luck.

REACH requirements will be phased in gradually. Manufacturers and importers will be required to gather information on the properties of their substances, which will help them manage them safely, and to register the information in a central database.

A new agency – the European Chemicals Agency in Helsinki, Finland – will act as the central point in the REACH system. The agency will run the databases necessary to operate the system, coordinate the in-depth evaluation of suspicious chemicals and run a public database in which consumers and professionals can find hazard information. The agency will also launch an as-yet-unnamed guidance Web site for REACH on June 1. Kraska said there are seven major REACH implementation projects, and there will be 10 specific guidance documents for industry.

Kraska said lubricant and additive companies exporting to Europe need to understand how REACH can impact them. In order for importers to know and be able to preregister the chemicals they import from you, theyre going to need your detailed formulation information, Kraska said. And I think most lubricant and lubricant additive suppliers dont want to do that.

A key question for lubricant manufacturers and additive manufacturers outside of Europe is deciding if they need to preregister for REACH themselves, Kraska said. First of all, you need to decide what products need to be REACH-compliant, he said. Then you need to start composing a list of the chemicals, the volumes of those chemicals in those products and the volume of chemicals you sell to Europe. Its really the list of chemicals thats important.

Preregistration will take place during the June to November 2008 timeframe. Kraska said preregistration is crucial because it can work as a safety valve. It keeps your options open until those chemicals need to be registered, he said.

He said preregistration offers several advantages, among them protection of confidential lubricant product formulas, the option to switch suppliers freely, the option to switch importers or distributors, protection from annual volume increases and additional time to set up a European blending facility.

Another preregistration benefit is having a representative in Europe. He said the representative will receive direct correspondence on the registration process and requirements. Youll also get to know who else is trying to register that chemical in Europe, he said. If you decide not to go forward with your registration, at least youll know whos preregistered and whos set up to do registration.

He said registration will be broken into three phases:

  • June 2008 to November 2010 for high-volume or high-hazard chemicals.
  • November 2010 to June 2013 for moderate-volume chemicals. Kraska said this is the timeframe most likely to start impacting lubricant additives.
  • June 2013 to June 2018 (possibly 2020) for lowest-volume chemicals.

Companies can make doing business in Europe easier if they are able to do some toll blending there, Kraska said. Thats a good idea, as it takes a lot of your REACH responsibilities away, he said. European companies will be REACH-compliant or they will be out of business. However, he says there are some chemicals where suppliers may not be up to the REACH challenge, including dyes, odor masks and sulfonates.

Kraska explained there is an exemption if a company exports less than one ton of a chemical into Europe per year. This has pitfalls, he said. It limits your business forever, he said. Second of all, you may find out a little too late that your customers are exporting a lot more product than you are. And your automotive customers are not likely to accept the explanation your product is REACH-compliant because you dont export more than a ton.

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