LOCAL REPORT Middle East Paul Stephenson, OATS Ltd

The Middle East (ME) includes some of the world’s largest oil producing nations making it a critical area for the petrochemical industry. Despite current dependence on petrochemical income, nationally many are focusing on renewable energy and emissions reduction.

The vehicle parc, manufacturing and sales A total ME vehicle parc of around 27m is forecast by 2023. While there is an appetite amongst the super-rich for luxury and supercar brands, Japanese makers lead mainstream ownership although, in Egypt, Chevrolet’s market share has grown significantly. Regional vehicle manufacture is limited, the majority being produced by local car makers or the heavy vehicle sector. Although volumes are low, aspirations are high – the Egyptian Government setting a 500k annual car manufacturing target by 2022, with Saudi Arabia and UAE promoting the benefits of their infrastructures in the hope of attracting major automakers.

Base oil production Saudi Arabia dominates regional petro-economics and is the world’s largest petroleum liquids exporter and oil producer (12m bpd) with reserves held in eight oil fields (including the 75bn barrel Ghawar field). Oil operations, including nine domestic refineries, are mainly run by state-owned Saudi Aramco.

The UAE generated four million bpd of petroleum and other fluids in 2019 from reserves mainly located in the Abu Dhabi Emirate. Egypt is Africa’s largest non-OPEC oil producer at around 720k bpd daily, with 60% of crude coming from the Western Desert. Oversight and management falls to five state-owned enterprises, with independents handling operations and output mostly sold locally.


Saudi Arabia was the 10th largest consumer of total primary energy in the world in 2016, comprising approximately 63% oil and petroleum products and 37% natural gas. Meanwhile, the UAE relies mainly on natural gas for it energy and is one of the largest global users of electricity per capita. Shortfalls are met by


imports from the likes of Qatar. Egypt’s oil consumption currently outstrips supply, although a decline in new oil discoveries has led to accelerated natural gas exploration, helping to ease consumption pressures.

The Lubricants market

The ME lubricants sector is dominated by automotive and transport and dictated by emissions standards and fuel quality. In Egypt and Saudi Arabia Euro 3 standards are typical, reaching Euro IV at best in Saudi; diesel sulphur levels are as high as 10k ppm.

API specs for the three markets are preferred to ACEA, and whilst Egypt’s passenger car parc is more dominated by older specifications and using Grp I base oils, Saudi Arabia and UAE are more Grp II/II base oils with SN/GF-5/A5+B5 and newer specifications accounting for between 30-40% of the parc

5W-30 viscosity dominates, with 5W-20 comprising most of the rest in Saudi and the UAE. In Egypt, 15W-40 remains significant due to a high selling Chevy TF Diesel pick-up. While fully synthetic lubes are seeing a sustained increase in Saudi, the UAE market is relatively static. Across the region, OEM-specific lubes are limited due to the dominance of the Japanese & South Korean OEMs.

In Summary

The Middle East lubricants sector is a complex mixture of high production capacity but relatively limited demand for lubricants in the domestic markets given population size, and despite being home to some of the largest global oil producing nations, the quality of products (both in terms of production and use) are still relatively low. However, its infrastructure and logistics for oil storage and distribution is amongst the most sophisticated in the world.

The economic and political challenges in the region as well as emissions legislation, which is still slow in developing, makes the Middle East lubricants market challenging but with significant growth potential. While fully-synthetic, high performance products have yet to make major inroads in some countries, this is likely to accelerate over the next five years.

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