October 30, 2019
Volume 3 Issue 4
Axel to Expand, Improve U.S. Grease Plants
Axel Christiernsson AB announced on Monday a multi-million dollar expansion and improvement plan across its three grease plants in the United States, including increased capacity to produce calcium sulfonate complex. The company manufactures and supplies lubricating greases in the U.S. through its Axel Americas and Axel Royal companies.
The investments detailed in a news release include installing new kettles to increase dedicated calcium sulfonate complex line capacity at its Rosedale, Mississippi location; and installing two high-speed cartridge filling lines and several equipment investments and process improvements to debottleneck operations in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Schertz, Texas.
“Adding two high-speed packaging lines will help us increase the throughput of those two facilities,” Axel Americas president Tom Schroeder told Lube Report.
The investments are also designed to bring the latter two facilities to Axel standards through several quality assurance, safety and work condition improvements.
Schroeder said the company is not disclosing the specific amount of expanded production capacity at this time, as it finalizes the plans and designs. “In broad terms, we’re adding a new production capacity for our calcium sulfonate complex lines, and that will allow us to produce batches large enough to complete a bulk batch of calcium sulfonate,” he said. One bulk batch would amount to around 40,000 to 45,000 pounds of grease, Schroeder explained. “It will give us a lot of flexibility for some of our larger customers that want to take some calcium sulfonate product in bulk. We can do it with one-batch production,” he said.
This is important to many of Axel’s customers because it means the certificate of analysis for the one batch of grease is very clean. “So we don’t have a combination of two or three batches developing that make up the one bulk batch,” he noted.
The expanded calcium sulfonate grease production also provides an additional benefit. “As a result, we will have additional capacity in some of our current polyurea production lines that serve dual purposes right now,” Schroeder added.
Jeff St. Aubin, vice president of technology for Axel Americas, noted that the company mainly provides services for private label customers. “Because of our customers, we tend to see more of an increase in industrial, heavy industry, and offroad construction type applications than we do some of the other applications,” St. Aubin said in a phone interview. “A lot of that is dictated and driven by the market.”
The electrification of vehicles is an emerging, coming trend highlighting the need for more grease technology research and expanded grease production capacity, from the company’s standpoint, he said.
“As we look at what we are doing in terms of our expansion for the technology of the grease, we’re paving the way for increased volumes in overbased calcium sulfonate, which has great properties in terms of stability, and in terms of extreme pressure, anti-wear and corrosion resistance,” St. Aubin said. “Those things are very important, and as lithium increased in price, a lot of our customers have moved in that direction [towards use of overbased calcium sulfonate]. And we’re greatly increasing our capacity there.”
Among grease thickener systems, he said, polyurea has a very clear future role to play with electric vehicles. “When you look at the electrification of vehicles, you’re mainly talking about electric motors of all shapes and sizes,’ he explained. “One of the leading thickener systems for those types of applications is polyurea. We’re making sure we’re in good shape for the future with that.”
Axel Christiernsson is based in Nol, Sweden, and has manufacturing facilities in Sweden, France, the Netherlands and the U.S. The company acquired grease maker Royal Manufacturing in Tulsa in March 2018.