Market Topics



Chevron Lays Off 1,500

Chevron in mid-May gave layoff notices to nearly 1,500 employees in downstream businesses, including finished lubricants and base oils. Chevron spokesman Sean Comey told Lube Report that notices went to workers in three communities: San Ramon and Concord, Calif., and Houston. The manpower reduction in the organization does not directly affect the Chevron Oronite business, added Chevron public relations manager Gus Santoyo.

Comey said the layoffs are part of Chevrons previously announced plans to reduce its global downstream operations by 5,700 jobs over three years. The workforce reductions are expected to continue through next year, he added.

ARG Adds Biofuel Capacity

American Refining Group has completed a $1.5 million project that will supply 2 percent biodiesel to western Pennsylvania. The project, funded in part by a $609,000 grant from the states Alternative and Clean Energy program, involved the construction of several new tanks and a new computer controlled injection system. The project also will enable ARG to supply ethanol blended gasoline later this year.

Car Care Creeping Up?

Consumers in 2009 were lagging in their attention to vehicle maintenance, including engine oils, coolants, transmission fluids and brake fluids, a new study finds – but they werent as bad as the year before. The study, under the aegis of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association and its Car Care Council, looked at vehicle inspection reports from 860 vehicles in 12 states nationwide.

Not quite three out of 10 vehicles inspected in 2009 (27 percent) were found to have low, overfull or dirty engine oil. That was down from 32 percent of vehicles which flunked in 2008.

SK Builds in China

SK Lubricants is launching construction of a lubricant blending plant in Tianjin, China, with a planned 80,000 metric tons per year of capacity. Completion of the project is slated for December 2011. SK already has a local lube marketing entity in Tianjin, and this move will accelerate its expansion into China, the company said in its first-quarter earnings presentation.

SKs ZIC brand motor oils are made with its Yubase API Group II and III base oils. These are manufactured in Ulsan, South Korea, and at a joint venture plant it operates in Dumai, Indonesia with Pertamina.

Red Flag on Nitrites and Drums

Metalworking fluid manufacturers and marketers should check with their steel drum suppliers to be sure they are not using sodium nitrite as a final rinse to prevent rust, the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association warned. The reason: Nitrites in the rust inhibitor can react with secondary amines in metalworking fluids to form carcinogenic nitrosamines.

The U.S. metalworking fluid industry discontinued using sodium nitrite as a rust inhibitor in fluids themselves after the EPA advised in 1984 that carcinogenic nitrosamines can form when nitrite reacts with secondary amines. Concerns now are that the sodium nitrite residue in treated drums could produce detectable levels of nitrosamines.

John McQuaid, executive director of the Steel Shipping Container Institute in Arlington, Va., whose members are new drum manufacturers, told Lube Report that some but not all drum makers use sodium nitrite as a rust inhibitor. It is well known about nitrites forming nitrosamines when combined with amines, and what countermeasures to take to prevent that from happening, he said. Many new and reconditioned drums rely on sodium nitrite for rust inhibition, added Paul Rankin, head of the Reusable Industrial Packaging Association in Rockville, Md., which represents container reconditioners.

New or reconditioned, drums which contain any nitrite residues should not be used to ship metalworking fluids, urges ILMAs Safety, Health, Environmental and Regulatory Affairs committee. Its undeniable that a secondary amine and nitrite are a problem, one lubricants industry source told Lube Report. Check your drums.

Croda Sheds Oleochemicals

Croda has agreed to sell Uniqema GmbH, its German oleochemicals business, to Kuala Lumpur Kepong of Malaysia, for Euro 60.5 million (U.S. $75 million). It originally acquired Uniqema in 2006 from Imperial Chemical Industries. The sale includes a manufacturing site in Emmerich, Germany, which makes fatty acids and glycerine, and has capacity of about 150,000 metric tons per year. KLK plans to make Emmerich the base for its oleochemicals division in Europe.

Shell Rethinks Portfolio

SOPUS Products, best known as Pennzoil Quaker State, last month said it was conducting a strategic review of its Car Care portfolio, with an eye to deciding which brands are good candidates for sale. As a start, it has signed a letter of intent to sell Auto Expressions, its auto accessories and air care business, to Kraco Enterprises LLC, an affiliate of the private investment firm Sun Capital Partners.

The Car Care segment includes a wide range of aftermarket brands, including Rain-X wiper blades, Fix-A-Flat, Gumout, Slick 50, Black Magic, Blue Coral and others – a portfolio which was largely built up by Pennzoil and Quaker State prior to their acquisition by Shell. SOPUS said it expects to complete the review of the businesses and announce the results by the end of the third quarter.

Execs Tote Away Hoover

Hoover Materials Handling Group, which supplies tote bins to the lubricants and chemical industries, is changing hands through a buyout led by its chief executive officer, Donald Young. The new management-led group of owners bought the company from a Citigroup subsidiary for an undisclosed amount. Hoovers Liquitote steel intermediate bulk containers are used to package, transport, store and dispense lubricants, chemical and greases. It manufactures and distributes the IBCs from a 240,000-sq.ft. facility in Houston.

Sea-Land Inks Dow Deal

Specialty chemical distributor Sea-Land Chemical Co., based in Westlake, Ohio, has signed on with Dow Microbial Control to distribute the Kathon brand of formaldehyde-free biocides in the United States. Dow acquired the line of broad-spectrum microbicides as part of its purchase of Rohm & Haas in April 2009. Kathon 886 metalworking fluid biocide and Kathon 893 metalworking fluid fungicide are among the products Sea-Land will focus on distributing to its metalworking and lubricant customers.

ELGI Defers to Volcano

If you had planned to attend the European Lubricating Grease Institutes Annual General Meeting in late April, but were shut out by volcanic ash blanketing European airspace, youll be glad to know the event has been rescheduled. Only the dates of the meeting have changed, advised the groups Carol Koopman from its headquarters in Amsterdam, with other plans still in place. The new dates are Oct. 23-26, in Kiev, Ukraine, where the Premier Palace Hotel already has agreed to apply the same rates as before for meeting attendees. Visit for details about the in-depth technical program, education courses and registration information.

Wirth Leads AOCA

In late April, the Automotive Oil Change Association elected Pat Wirth of Potomac Falls Express Lube in Fairfax Station, Va., as president, during the groups annual International Fast Lube Expo. Jeff Pauly of Sound Billing in Middleton, Wis., became vice president, and Ricky Price of Flagship Fastlube in Wahiawa, Hawaii, became secretary and treasurer for the fast-lube industry trade association.

Briefly Noted

Connecticut will invest $700,000 to help LiQuifix Inc., a Stamford-based maker of a nontoxic spray lubricant, keep and grow 56 jobs in the state over the next three years. The company, which expects to invest $1 million to expand its headquarters and build out its research and development facility, is getting a loan from the state of $200,000 at 3.5 percent interest for 10 years, plus the Connecticut Clean Tech Fund will make a $500,000 equity investment in the firm.

Oryx Oil & Gas has signed on with the Sealub Alliance, where it will have exclusive rights for production and distribution of the ventures marine lubricants, products and services in eastern and western Africa, including Senegal, Ivory Coast, Togo, Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania. In addition to distributing fuels and lubricants, Oryx operates one ISO 9001-certified lubricants blending plant in Dar es Salaam, and is building a second in Lome, Togo.

As this issue goes to press, Royal Dutch Shell continues to negotiate with the Indian oil refiner Essar for the potential sale of three European refineries, but it also said it has reopened talks with other companies, and may close the refineries if its price isnt met. Two of the refineries include base oil plants.

Faces in the News

Holly Refining & Marketing, which operates a base oil refinery in Tulsa, Okla., has named Robert Plummer as manager, base oil sales. Plummer is a chemical and oil industry veteran of 25 years, including with white oils marketer Schumann/Steir and in base oil sales with Chevron. At Holly, he will spearhead a program to build sales both domestically and internationally.

Peter Drechsler, a senior tribology specialist with The Timken Co. in Canton, Ohio, has taken the reins as 2010-11 president of the Society of Tribologists & Lubrication Engineers. His one-year term began last month at the groups annual meeting. Drechsler has focused in his career on metalworking fluids and greases, and has held positions at AMFs Cuno Division and Pratt & Whitney. He worked for 29 years at Torrington Co. before it was acquired by Timken. He has published numerous papers and articles, and holds two U.S. patents.

Lockhart Chemical announced the appointment of Rajinder S. Minhas as president and chief operating officer. He joined the Gibsonia, Pa.-based chemical firm in 1993, and most recently was vice president of operations. Minhas, who holds masters degrees in both chemical engineering and business administration, is based at the companys manufacturing facility in Flint, Mich.

Curt Knapp has become vice president, oil sales, at Safety-Kleen Systems Inc., responsible for all sales, marketing, customer service, technical and supply functions for the companys oil business. Knapp joined Safety-Kleen in 2008, and developed its EcoPower motor oil program and the national distributor network now selling the product. He has over 21 years of lubricants industry experience, including with Sunoco, Warren Distribution and Castrol North America.

Thomas Penny was named technical sales manager for industrial foam control products at Emerald Performance Materials. Formerly a staff scientist at Ashland Water Technologies, Penny will be responsible for developing the strategic direction for defoamers, including the Foam Blast line, and working with sales staff to drive growth.

Jon Goodyear has joined Hoover Materials Handling Group as regional sales manager for the U.S. Gulf Coast region. He brings over 11 years experience in the oil and gas industry to the company, which makes, sells and rents IBCs.

Stephen F. Kirk, senior v.p. and chief operating officer of Lubrizol Corp., was feted last month at an event honoring the Boy Scouts of America. The May 21 ceremony in Mentor, Ohio, saw Kirk receive the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, a rare honor in recognition of his years of work on behalf of the service organization.

Fred Rooks

LubesnGreases is sad to report that Frederick T. Rooks II, of Northeast Products Co. in Fall River, Mass., died suddenly on May 13 at the age of 71, while playing tennis. After service in the U.S. Army, Rooks graduated from Hobart College and worked for Brown & Sharp and later for Winchester Repeating Arms Co. He moved into lubricants in 1980, joining his familys business U.S. Oil Co. and Northeast Products. He ultimately rose to share the leadership role there and was active in the companys operations until his death.

Related Topics

Market Topics