NPRA: 2007 Q4 Up, Year Down


Total U.S. lubricant sales volumes in the fourth quarter of 2007 climbed 3.6 percent compared to the same period in 2006, according to the latest sales data from the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, but full-year sales volumes declined 2.9 percent from 2006 levels.

The organization March 17 released its Quarterly Lubricant Sales Survey showing that volumes for the fourth quarter rose across most major sectors of the market. Grease sales – the lone exception – fell 6.3 percent in the fourth quarter compared to 2006s fourth quarter. Grease sales for the full year dropped 8.2 percent from 2006.

The report, using 2002 as the base year, provides a quarterly index of lubricant sales, not the actual sales volumes. An index value of 100 represents the average quarterly volume for 2002, calculated by dividing the total volume for 2002 by four.

Industrial lubricants sales volumes rose 6 percent to 90.6 in the fourth quarter, compared to 85.5 in 2006s fourth quarter. For the full year, industrial lubes fell 2.3 percent, compared to its 2006 level.

Sales volumes for the automotive segment went up 3 percent to 85.9 in the fourth quarter, compared to 2006s fourth quarter. For the full year, the automotive segment reached 88.9, down 3.5 percent compared to 2006.

The full year numbers and declines for 2007, compared to the previous year, look remarkably similar to those in 2006 in the automotive and industrial segments, said Stephen Ames, of SBA Consulting in Pepper Pike, Ohio. In 2006, the automotive segment declined 3.4 percent from 2005, and the industrial lubes segment declined 2.1 percent from 2005.

Automotives down because of increased oil drain intervals, and probably because of somewhat less driving because of the high cost of fuel, Ames told Lube Report. Industrial, as it becomes even more efficient or goes offshore. I think what may be fooling a lot of people is the decreases are larger than I think most people forecasted. It doesnt take much in the way of increasing oil drain intervals to get these types of numbers and to see even larger decreases.

The industrial process oil index rose 4 percent to 77.7 in the fourth quarter, up from 74.8 in 2006s fourth quarter. For the full year, the process oil index edged down 0.7 percent to 84.8, compared to 2006s total.

The survey said that the U.S. Energy Information Agency reported output of paraffinic and naphthenic base oils totaling 18.7 million barrels during the fourth quarter, up 8.7 percent from the fourth quarter in 2006. Full-year 2007 base oil production reached 67.6 million barrels, up 1.1 percent from 2006.

Wax production totaled 1.1 million barrels in the fourth quarter, identical to the year-earlier total. Total wax production in 2007 reached 4.5 million barrels, down 16.6 percent from 5.4 million barrels in 2006.

NPRA emphasizes that its quarterly reports are meant to be used as a gauge of market trends, rather than a measure of total sales, because relatively few marketers participate. The association member companies that report quarterly data are refiners as well as marketers, representing more than 72 percent of the lubricants volumes reported for the associations more comprehensive annual report on lubricating oil sales.

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