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Group I technical demand in Asia-Pacific (AP) is also expected to remain robust through 2030, particularly driven by demand in emerging markets in China, India and South East Asia (e.g. Indonesia)5


.


Group I Properties and Producers There are several technical reasons as to why Group I base oils are still highly valued in select industries and markets. Group I refining involves mainly physical separations through a combination of distillation and solvent extraction processes.


Group I base oils contain hydrocarbon chains which range from about C20


-C60 . They also contain


some saturated ring compounds (napthenes) as well as aromatic compounds and molecules with heteroatoms.


Based on this chemical makeup, Group I base oils generally have advantages in solvency, and in attaining both low and high viscosities. However, Group II, III and IV base oils tend to better oxidative stability, as well as have better volatility and low temperature performance than Group I6


.


Group I remains advantageous in industrial, marine and chemical applications


Group I base oils have historically been the main stay for most lubricant applications, but the automotive drive to better fuel economy, higher temperature operations and longer life have changed that. However, the inherent properties of Group I base oils can make them advantaged in other applications such as industrial oils, marine lubricants and process oils7


.


Group I base oils’ technical properties give it many advantages over Group II and III in certain applications, particularly in enabling lubricant marketers to produce optimised products in a cost-efficient way.


Applications and markets that value high viscosity and/or high solvency will continue to see value in using Group I base oils over other base oils, such as:


• Greases: Formed from a chemical reaction rather than through a blending process, greases are essential in industrial equipment. Base oils are


5 Based on ExxonMobil assessment of publicly available information 6 Based on ExxonMobil assessment of publicly available information


used in greases as a medium to conduct the thickener formation reaction. The process by which the thickener is formed can dramatically impact the finished grease’s performance. The base oil’s solvency can significantly impact the thickener level, and thus influence various properties like a grease’s water resistance, dropping point and tendency to harden. Since the thickener is the most expensive component of a grease, Group I base oils can be used to lower thickener content, and cost, and without sacrificing key grease structural properties.


• Compressor, gear, bearing and metalworking fluids: Fluids used in the industrial and marine industries require specific lubricant properties. While both Group I and Group II base oils can be used, Group I’s higher sulphur content has an advantage in emulsibility.


Additionally, Group I’s high viscosity and solvency can provide lubricants with several advantageous qualities including sealing capability and materials compatibility. They also provide lubricants with an additive solvency that are targeted for surface protection.


• Process oils: Within the chemical industry, base oils are also largely used in process oils. Additive companies find diluent oils to be highly valuable in the manufacturing of additive components, in blending packages and controlling the viscosity level of modifiers. Group I base oil’s high sulphur content can also help boost the extreme performance properties of gear oil packages.


Group I co-product – paraffin waxes – equally valuable


The overall decline in Group I production over the past 10 years has had a secondary impact on the availability of co-products derived from a Group I asset, namely paraffin wax.


While Group I decline has already impacted the market today, the change will be more pronounced in a few years. At the same time, global wax demand is growing at the rate of approximately 1.0% per year8


.


7 Based on ExxonMobil assessment of publicly available information 8 Assessment based on 2020 Kline report


16


LUBE MAGAZINE NO.157 JUNE 2020


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