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December 6, 2019

Volume 7 Issue 4

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Customizing Formulations for Different Markets

SINGAPORE – Lubricant blenders should consider each country’s unique preferences, market and work environments when formulating for the Asian market, an industry insider said.

“It is necessary to have different strategies for each country. I am often asked by my superiors, ‘why do you have to make different strategies for each country in Asia?’ But developing what is appropriate for the particular market in the region is important,” said Takeshi Mitomi, chief engineer of Idemitsu Lube Asia Pacific Pte.

“This will enable business success and create a sustainable future,” he told an audience at the Asian Industrial Lubricants Conference jointly organized by ICIS and the European Lubricating Grease Institute in Singapore last month.

He said Asia’s progress in creating environmentally friendly policies is slow and varies with each country. But some lubricant formulations can help reduce liquid waste, extend drain intervals, reduce hazardous substance application, reduce losses due to warm-up with high-viscosity index and provide other benefits that reduce impacts on the environment.

However, “environmentally friendly lubricants are price sensitive in China and India. If we only chase prices, we will not change. We need to connect with government, and this is important for us,” he said.

It is also important to “monitor movements of each country and local government to quickly grasp trends and adopt counter-measures,” to cope with the market environment.

For example, China is adopting stricter regulations for the handling of dangerous goods. “Since the big explosion [of hazardous and flammable chemicals] occurred in Tianjin, China, in 2015 while I was there, handling of dangerous goods has become very difficult,” he said.

These include strict audits from the government, restrictions on the volume of dangerous goods allowed, difficulty in obtaining licenses for dangerous goods handling and an increase in the cost of storage and shipping of dangerous goods. However, with these changes, there is “a new market need [to transition] from dangerous goods to non-dangerous goods and water-soluble type products,” Mitomi said.

“In recent years, regulations have been strengthened. Caution is required, but changes in the market environment are both a threat and an opportunity,” he said.

Other market environment factors include user preference. “Preferences and dislikes differ, depending on the country and region. Performance required for products also varies, depending on the country or region. Therefore, even for Asia, there is no single orientation,” according to Mitomi.

For example, in some countries, people dislike chemical odors. “Especially in China and the northern part of Vietnam. But in these countries, the operator's position is weak, they are unable to change anything and they will leave the job if they cannot withstand the odor,” he added.

Liquid waste treatment method also varies in Asia, but generally, lubricant products that can be recycled or rerefined easily are required, he said.

“The properties of tap water are different in each country and it is necessary to decide what kind of formulation works best for the particular water composition, taking into consideration scum formation, de-emulsification and foaming,” he said. The company did an aluminum corrosion test and found tap water in Singapore vastly different from Indonesia.

In the work environment, “chlorine is one of the additive components that should be eliminated. However, it is still a frequently used substance in Asia,” he said.

Also, government regulations are insufficient and enforcement weak. “In some Asian countries, awareness of caring for the operator's work environment is still low,” he said.

Substances like chlorine, boron, barium, formaldehyde and others affecting human health should be regulated by the blender, Mitomi suggested. Although these substances “have excellent performance, especially in metal working oil, and is cheap, should we continue using these substances of concern? Isn't it our [priority] to create a product with similar or better performance without using these substances?” he asked attendees.

“Combining different additives can also have similar or better performance than chlorine-type additives,” he said. China and India rank first and second, respectively, in both manufacturing and consumption of chlorinated paraffins.

“About 30 years ago in Japan, chlorinated paraffins were used in 80 percent of metalworking oils. Currently, there are almost no products that use chlorinated paraffins. Lubricant blenders aggressively promote non-chlorine type lubricants with cooperation from customers, so it was possible to achieve non-chlorination in lubricant products,” he concluded.