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Publishers Letter


There was a lot of discussion at the 11th ICIS World Base Oils Conference in London in February about the growing supply of API Group III base oils, and the growing need for base oil interchange guidelines for these high-quality stocks. The recent ExxonMobil/Qatar decision to shelve a gas-to-liquids project that had included 30,800 barrels per day of base oils underscores the need for guidelines. The world is now likely to see more Group III stocks coming on stream to satisfy its appetite for higher quality lubricants.

At the ICIS conference, Lithcons Ernie Henderson gave an excellent summary of how we arrived where we are today in terms of base oil categories and interchange guidelines. Product applications for Group III, numbers of suppliers, and complexity and diversity of feedstocks will all continue to grow, he said, so API and ATIEL (APIs counterpart in Europe) must develop interchange rules.

Sylvain Leblanc of In?neum agreed, noting, Its very costly to rerun tests in each base stock. Cautioned Lubrizols Alison Fisher, Interchange guidelines must be based on data for OEMs to accept them. Well need to invest a lot of money.

API is now generating data, said John Rosenbaum of Chevron Global Base Oils. Were trying to move to property-based guidelines in North America, for example a mass spectrum analysis. But theres no uniformity across the industry. We expect to have a new method for saturates this year. But the standardization process will take a few years.

Whats a blender to do? You have to plan for complexity. Choose a base oil approved across the product line, and consider security of supply, said Fisher. Added Leblanc, You need ?exibility because theres little interchange. You may need several Group IIs and several Group IIIs because of the product approvals.

Group III interchange is clearly a global problem. Is a global solution possible?

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