Additives for Emerging Markets


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Additive companies spend heavily to meet the latest engine oil specifications, but huge volumes of lower tier oils are still produced in emerging markets. Taking a modern engine oil additive package and down-treating to lower the cost is a dangerous game, says Lubrizol, which emphasizes the need for chemistry without compromise, even for obsolete categories.

David Lancaster, Lubrizols U.K.-based business manager for regional growth, told the ICIS Asian Base Oils & Lubricants Conference here in June how additive companies can support the lower tier engine oil markets in China, India, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, South America and elsewhere. The key, he said, is to ensure the engine oil meets high standards for friction reduction, corrosion protection, oxidation resistance and contaminant control.

The total amount of engine oil produced in 2007 that is below current API licensable categories is significant, Lancaster said, that is, below API SJ and CF levels. For example, these lower tier oils totaled 624,000 metric tons in Russia, 460,000 tons in India, 289,000 tons in South America, and 980,000 tons in China.

At the same time, treat rates across the industry for obsolete engine oil categories have fallen since the 1980s, while increased engine power has increased the stress placed on engine oils. This is not the time to reduce active chemistry, said Lancaster.

ZDDP [zinc dialkyldiphiophosphate] is the key anti-wear chemistry in emerging markets, Lancaster noted. For example, increasing the phosphorus in two otherwise identical API SF additive packages from 500 ppm to 800 ppm extended the life of the oil by 200 percent in the Sequence VE engine test.

Corrosive attacks on engine parts are a significant concern in emerging markets, Lancaster continued, so detergents are a key component for corrosion protection, to neutralize the acidic by-products of combustion. Low-sulfur fuels result in less sulfuric acid, but there are more problems than sulfur in fuel. Nitric acid is a growing concern, plus organic acids. Therefore, dont compromise TBN [total base number], Lancaster urged.

A particular concern is the increasing use of biofuels and associated organic acid formation, Lancaster continued. In Southeast Asia alone biodiesel is expected to grow by 7.5 million metric tons by 2011, he said. Biodiesel dilution in sumps leads to poor engine performance. TBN is a key part of a balanced approach to formulating lubricants for growth markets.

As we see the move to alternative fuels in emerging markets, we see the increased importance of balanced chemistry capable of resisting oxidation, Lancaster said. A main factor determining oxidation is the oil change interval, which has risen from 15,000 kilometers in 1992 to 30,000 km in 2005. At the same time, piston designs to reduce emissions are subjecting lubricants to higher temperatures, resulting in more oxidation. And since the 1990s, turbochargers discharging gas at over 170 degrees C have put immense stress on engine oils in terms of oxidation.

Given the fact that, as a general rule, the rate of oxidation doubles for each 10 degree rise in temperature, it is not difficult to see why we need effective antioxidants, said Lancaster. ZDDP has been used for many years and provides excellent resistance to oxidation, although where phosphorus content is restricted, alternative antioxidants must be used in conjunction with lower levels of phosphorus. With modern lubricants, there is much talk of low SAPS, noted Lancaster. But no one talks of that kind of chemistry for emerging markets low tier products. Were talking API SF and SG here.

Finally, Lancaster said, controlling contaminants in engines relies on dispersants, which basically function by forming micelles to trap deposit precursors such as soot and sludge, and which stabilize large particles by a mechanism of charge repulsion to prevent particle agglomeration and hence oil thickening. Compromising on the dispersant can lead to high levels of oxidative sludge and other deposits.

Although we seek to offer cost-optimized packages, it is essential that performance in emerging markets is not compromised, Lancaster concluded. It is essential that well-balanced packages offer the correct level of chemistry to protect the end users investment. Purchasing cheaper, inappropriate engine oil is a false economy, leading to premature engine failure.

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