Chinese Ether Maker Flexes Muscles in R&D

A Chinese ether maker decided to maximize its competitiveness through serving niche markets.

Nanjing-based Well Chemical plans to invest heavily in its research capacity by establishing a lab that will provide synthetic lube solutions to clients across industries, said Shirley Hong, Wells sales director.

Well probably is known as a supplier of esters and water-soluble ethers, but we aim for more than that, Hong told Lube Report Asia at the China International Lubricants and Technology Exhibition (Inter Lubric) event in September in Beijing.

One advantage Well has is its research talent, she said. We have a research team composed of over 50 experienced researchers, and many of them are overseas returnees, Hong said.

Over the years, Wells research capacity allowed it to be one of the top names for Chinese clients who want to replace imported lubes with more affordable Chinese options, she added proudly. We have great confidence in our products, which gained approval from many clients who were used to the quality of synthetics and additives from multinationals.

Another advantage of Wells, which could allow it to serve lube clients outside the highly crowded motor and industrial oil sectors, comes from its long-term experiences supplying pharmaceutical raw materials such as polysorbates in the global market.

Thanks to the pharma business, we have a good manufacturing practice-certified facility, and we are familiar with all the standards in the EU and the U.S., which means we can provide synthetic lube solutions to clients who have some unique requests, such as lubes used in medical devices, Hong said.

In fact, the pharma unit is so important to Wells future growth that the company is planning to change its name to Well Pharmaceuticals and go public in Shanghai as soon as possible.

Wells perspective in serving lube clients in niche, lucrative sectors is rare in Chinas lube industry. At the event, which was packed with lube blenders and additives suppliers, few had thought about opportunities outside of suppliers typical comfort zone – motor and industrial oils – saying niche markets are too small for quick money. Some were even perplexed by the possible connection between medical devices and lubricants.

According to Nye Lubricants Inc., a supplier based in the United States, everything from damping greases to gear oils are used in a wide array of highly complex medical tools including insulin delivery devices andthrombelastograph coagulation analyzers.

Hong said the reason for Well to be able to think far ahead is that it has accumulated rich experiences serving clients in many industries, and that it is financially secure. We are one of the very few lucky companies, she said. Lets face it, most of the Chinese lube companies are struggling to have their ends met, let alone thinking of long-term strategies.

Wang Xuguang, an independent consultant in the lube industry, agreed with her. You cant ask someone who doesnt have money for food to plan a fancy future, he said.