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June 12, 2019

Volume 2 Issue 24

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Grease Production Dips in North America

Lubricating grease production in North America declined 4.2 percent in 2018, according to the National Lubricating Grease Instituteís yearly survey, which was released this week. Production of greases made with aluminum soap and calcium soap thickeners showed growth, while those made with lithium soap and polyurea each experienced declines.

The survey was released Monday at the NLGI Annual Meeting in Las Vegas.

About five years ago, North America was producing more than Europe, but since then Europeís production has grown and North Americaís has declined, said Chuck Coe of independent research and consulting firm Grease Technology Solutions, which conducted the survey. North Americaís grand total reached 456.1 million pounds last year, compared to 517.6 million pounds for Europe. Back in 2015, North Americaís grand total was 481.8 million pounds, compared to 444.4 million pounds for Europe.

The 48 North American grease plants that participated in the survey produced about 456.1 million pounds of grease last year, or 17.6 percent of the global total of 2.6 billion pounds.

Officials with United States-based NLGI emphasize that grand totals should not be used for year-to-year comparisons of data because the pool of reporting companies can change.

Comparative data for consistently reporting companies to North America showed a decrease of 4.2 percent in grease production from 2017 to 2018.

Greases made with conventional lithium soap thickener accounted for 21.7 percent of the regionís production in 2018, down from almost 24 percent in 2017. The percentage made from lithium complex soap thickeners reached 42.7 percent in 2018, compared to 41.8 percent in 2017.

Calcium soap grease production accounted for 11.8 percent of the regionís grease production last year, up from 10.8 percent in 2017. Aluminum soap greases made up 10.3 percent of the regionís grease production in 2018, up from 8.7 percent in 2017.

Aluminum soap grease production increased 13.2 percent from 2017. Calcium soap grease production in North America was up 4.2 percent from 2017. Polyurea grease production dropped 17.7 percent from 2017.

In the Caribbean, Central and South America, 14 grease plants participating in the survey produced 77.6 million pounds of grease in 2018, a 3 percent share of global output. Comparative data wasnít available for the region.

Greases made with conventional lithium soap thickeners accounted for 73.7 percent of its total. Grease made with lithium complex soap thickeners made up 15.8 percent of the regionís production last year. Greases made with calcium soap accounted for 8 percent, while sodium soap-thickened products made up 2 percent.

The survey also compiled production data by base oil type, with about 90 percent of all participants reporting this type of data. Among 343 million pounds of grease in North America for which base fluid type was reported, 80.9 percent used conventional, 13 percent used synthetic, 5.4 percent used semi-synthetic and 0.6 percent used biobased fluids. Among 77.7 million pounds of grease in the Caribbean, Central and South America for which respondents reported base fluid type, 99.8 percent used conventional base fluids. Synthetic and semi-synthetic base fluids each accounted for less than 0.1 percent each, and only 794 pounds, or essentially zero percent, used biobased fluids.

The full 30-page report of 2018 grease production includes prior-year data going back to 2015, and will be available to download by the end of June at www.nlgi.org. NLGI member companies can obtain a free copy, and nonmembers may purchase the report, which contains data categorized by geographic region, thickener type, base oil type and year.