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Chevron Loses Grease Lawsuit

An Iowa jury on Nov. 5 found Chevron liable for $10.7 million in damages, saying its FM grease has a design defect that led to corrosion in fire hydrants using it. McWane Inc., which does business as Clow Valve Co., makes and sells fire hydrants in the United States. Its civil suit was filed in June 2006 in the Iowa District Court for Mahaska County.

An expert witness for Chevron stated the high degree of corrosion found on valve stems in Clows hydrants was actually due to insufficient grease coverage, not the grease makeup. But Clow, which used the Chevron FM grease in fire hydrants from 2002 to 2004, countered that the corrosion was caused by calcium acetate in the grease, which absorbs water and promotes corrosion. Up to 113,000 fire hydrants might be affected, it said. Clow already has spent $5.8 million to correct the problem, and anticipates spending another $4.9 million to deal with it.

Ciba Suits Up in Singapore

Ciba is set to launch production of phenolic antioxidants for lubricants and fuels in its newly commissioned Singapore facility. Aimed at rapidly meeting Asian customer needs, the plant will inaugurate production in early 2009 with Irganox L135, and then go on to add other antioxidant products, said Douglas Brown, head of Cibas process and lubricant additives business line.

Total Grows in U.S.

Total Lubricants North America has acquired independent lubricant manufacturer Lubricants USA LP of Plano, Texas, for an undisclosed amount. The move provides a springboard for Total to significantly expand its presence within the U.S. lubricants and greases industry, said Olivier Goutal of Total Lubricants North America. Prior to the sale, Lubricants USA was the exclusive U.S. marketer of Fina-branded lubricants, but Total will now be the dominant brand, he added. Chris Haire, president and CEO of Lubricants USA, was named president of the renamed entity, Total Lubricants USA Southwest.

Total Lubricants North America, based in Linden, N.J., is a wholly owned subsidiary of French oil and chemical giant Total.

Lube Stats: Down for the Count

The National Petrochemical and Refiners Associations Report on 2007 U.S. Lubricating Oil and Wax Sales made its farewell appearance in November – without capturing sales data from some usual participants, most notably ExxonMobil. NPRA has decided to discontinue the report, citing cost concerns and questions about its usefulness. Discontinuation of the annual report will not affect NPRAs Quarterly Index of Lubricant Sales report, added NPRAs Daniel J. Strachan.

While the oil majors lack of participation hurts the 2007 Sales Reports bottom-line total, the 70-page report still includes valuable comparative data that spotlights industry trends. Overall, the companies responding to the survey said their sales of automotive and industrial lubricants fell 2.2 percent in 2007 versus 2006, and sales of lubricating grease fell 5.7 percent. The report also includes detailed charts and graphs which show U.S. volumes, product types and quality levels for automotive oils, industrial lubricants and waxes. To order, visit the publications link at www.npra.org.

Castrol to Close U.K. Site

BP Castrol will close its lubricant blending plant in Ellesmere Port, England (near Liverpool) in fall 2009. As the companys last such plant in the United Kingdom, Ellesmere blends Castrol GTX, GTX Magnetec and Duckhams brand motor oils. BP Castrol spokesman Robert Wine said staff were told Nov. 19 of plans to close the facility, and about 40 people will be affected. It would close in about September of next year, he said. Production will move to other BP Castrol sites in Europe.

Faces in the News

David E. Lawrence on Dec. 1 became president and CEO of Milacron Inc., the Cincinnati-based supplier of industrial fluids and plastics processing equipment. Lawrence, who was president of global mold technology at Milacron for the past five years, replaces Ronald D. Brown, who has retired.

Castrol Industrial North America has picked Dave Fuerst as Americas president, to lead its industrial fluids and lubricants business in the region. Most recently serving as the companys area director for the eastern U.S. and Canada, he joined Castrol in 1997 after 10 years with Mobil Chemical.

R.M. Skip Brunhaver has joined Pulsair Systems as director of sales for the Western United States. A highly decorated Naval aviator during the Vietnam War, he brings experience in manufacturing, distribution and business development to the Bellevue, Wash.-based maker of industrial liquid mixing and blending devices.

Bob Ren is the new sales manager for the Midwest region at Colonial Specialty Chemical, the Tabernacle, N.J., distributor serving the metalworking and industrial markets. He comes to CSC after 13 years with Dover Chemical, and will continue to be based in Ohio.

Pale Oil Shortfall Coming

Forecasting naphthenic demand is difficult in the current global economic downturn, but an Ergon executive predicts that pale oils overall will face a shortfall by 2012. Per Klintstam, president of Ergon Europe/Middle East/Africa, told the NPRA International Lubricants & Waxes meeting in November that worldwide demand for naphthenics will outpace supply by more than 380,000 metric tons per year by then.

Klintstam pointed out that these base oils have three primary markets: as electrical oils for transformers; as process oils for the rubber industry; and as base oils for metalworking fluids and industrial lubricants. The trend in each of these markets is positive for naphthenics. Electrical oils, for example, can expect 5 percent annual growth, said Klintstam, and industrial lubricants, marine oils and additives increasingly need the higher solvency of naphthenics.

Currently, he said, despite regional imbalances, global supply exceeds demand by 375,900 metric tons per year. But by 2012, that picture will reverse, with a global deficit of 384,100 metric tons per year.

Jury Hands $3M to ExMo Jobber

In a David-vs.-Goliath scenario, a jury last month found that ExxonMobil conspired to drive South Carolina petroleum jobber Bristow Oil out of the Mobil lubricants business and wrongfully terminated its distributorship in spring 2001. ExxonMobil maintained it canceled the contract in accordance with the terms of the distributor agreement, but a Darlington County, S.C., jury Nov. 21 found in favor of Bristow on two counts – civil conspiracy by ExxonMobil, and wrongful termination of Bristows Mobil lubricants distributorship – awarding $2 million actual damages and $1 million in punitive damages.

Bristow is a family-owned company in the Darlington-Florence area of South Carolina. Its relationship with Mobil predated the ExxonMobil merger, and was about 10 percent of its total revenue. Its legal team claimed that ExxonMobil had wrongly terminated Bristows contract to favor another Mobil distributor in the region, White Oil Co.

Attorneys for ExxonMobil quickly filed for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, which effectively asks the judge to overturn the jurys decision.

Delfin Upgrades in S.C.

Beginning early this year, Delfin Group USA will invest $55 million in the 41.7 acre North Charleston, S.C., industrial site that it acquired for $20 million in late 2007 from Chevron. A division of Moscow-based Delfin Group Russia, the company plans to retrofit the facility to support manufacturing of its automotive and industrial lubricants to serve both domestic and global markets. The construction could take 12 to 18 months to complete, and involves both upgrading and adding new manufacturing and packaging lines. According to the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, Delfin employs 15 at the site now, and through the expansion will add 160 new jobs over the next three to four years.

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