Lubricants are primarily used to reduce friction between moving surfaces and for better performance of machines. Lubricants can be mainly divided into three product segments including mineral, synthetic and bio-based lubricants. Bio-based lubricants are renewable and biodegradable in nature and are manufactured from either vegetable (palm oil, castor oil, sunflower) or animal derived oils. Being more eco-friendly, bio-based lubricants are expected to grow at a higher rate than mineral oils and are expected to gain market share over the next six years. Owing to their unique chemical, mechanical, and eco-friendly properties, bio-based lubricants are finding applications across a host of industries including automotive, agriculture, shipping, forestry, and railways.
Increasing automobile demand is fueling the demand for lubricants. Regulatory sanctions on mineral lubricants owing to their environmental impact are encouraging the utilization for bio-based lubricants. Governments are promoting development and use of bio lubricants to lower the emission of greenhouse gases and energy consumption as per regulations. There are several regulations and policies that exist in favor of bio-lubricants in European and North American countries. However, volatility in mineral oil prices and high cost of bio-based and synthetic lubricants are posing a challenge to the market.
Turbine oil, compressor oil, gear oil, hydraulic oil, bearing oil, heat transfer fluid, nanomaterials based lubrication and re-refined base oils and lubricants are the major contributors to the lubricants market. Turbine oil is a high quality mineral oil with excellent water separating qualities. It is used in power plant steam and gas turbine lubrication due to their high corrosion and oxidation inhibiting properties and foam suppressing properties. Hydraulic oil lubricant is used in industrial machinery, construction equipment, automotive, aircraft, and marine applications. It is also used in heavy earth moving equipment such as excavators and forklifts.
Asia Pacific is the leading market for lubricants, owing to strong demand emerging from growing economies of China and India. Asia Pacific accounted for approximately 40.2% of the total lubricants demand in 2011. The demand for lubricants in Asia Pacific region is mainly contributed by the growth of the automobiles market and the rapid industrialization taking place in the region. Asia-Pacific dominates the production of vegetable oils which are used as an essential raw material for bio-based lubricants, but when it comes to consumption, Asia Pacific is far behind North America and Europe.
North America is the second biggest automobiles market after China. The economic conditions prevailing in the U.S. is taking a toll on the U.S. automobiles market which is slowing down the growth of consumer automotive lubricants market in the region. Volatile base stock prices are a key factor behind the growth of revenues in the North American lubricant market. Europe is also considered to be a mature market nearing its saturation point which is one of the reasons behind its slow growth. Moreover, the Euro zone debt crisis prevailing in the region (mainly in Western Europe) is hampering the growth of various industries across the region. The market for lubricants is mainly driven by demand emerging from growing economies of Russia and other CIS countries (Ukraine and other countries), due to rapid industrialization taking place in this region.
Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobile, British Petroleum, Chevron, Castrol, and Total are among the leaders in the bio-based lubricant market. Royal Dutch Shell dominated the bio-based lubricant market with 20% share of the overall demand in 2011, followed by Exxon Mobile and British Petroleum together, accounting for over 32% of the bio-based lubricant market in 2011. Similar to the bio-based lubricant market, the global mineral and synthetic lubricant market is also dominated by a few companies. Royal Dutch Shell holds the maximum market share of 13.5%, followed by Exxon Mobile and British Petroleum together, accounting for over 20% of the mineral and synthetic lubricant market in 2011. Castrol, Chevron, Total and Fuchs are other major mineral and synthetic lubricant companies. The remaining lubricant market is shared by a large number of medium and small companies.