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Global Base Oil Product Trends

Brent K. Lok
Senior Product Manager - Base Oils
Mark L. Sztenderowicz
Product Development Specialist - Base Oil Technology
Chevron Products Company


William M. Kleiser
Senior Staff Engineer, Automotive Engine Oils
Oronite Global Technology
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For the fifty to sixty years prior to the beginning of the 1990’s, paraffinic base oil quality was very slow to change.
With a few exceptions, most paraffinic stocks, regardless of location, were made through solvent extraction of
selected crude oil streams. Over the last decade, however, significant changes have occurred within this industry.

In the early 1990s, the changes began when European engine oil volatility specifications drove European suppliers
to offer higher VI/lower volatility base oils. Those cost-effective alternatives to the only preexisting solution –
using expensive synthetic blend stocks such as polyalphaolefins (PAO) – typically involved solvent dewaxing of a
fuels hydrocracker (HC) bottoms stream to achieve a high-VI, low volatility product. Although effective as low-
volatility base stocks, these generally are limited product offerings intended only to complement existing Group I
base oil slates. These first-generation Group III base oils were low-capital-cost solutions to the volatility challenge
that allowed maximum use of existing Group I base oils to be retained. As a result, European base oil capacity still
is almost entirely solvent refined (Group I) today, and shows few signs of making any major shift in the near future.

In contrast, starting in the mid-1990s the North American base oil industry changed direction, and started to build
new base oil plants or substantially modify existing plants to manufacture hydroprocessed (Group II/II+/III) base
oils, recognizing their benefits in product quality, low operating costs and flexibility. The result is that in less than a
decade, Group II capacity, currently at 40% of the paraffinic market, will have grown to be the dominant paraffinic
base oil type in North America.

While quality and base oil performance were important drivers of base oil changes in Europe and North America, in
Asia supply shortfalls precipitated the building of new base oil plants, often by new players in the industry, and
mostly utilizing the newer hydroprocessing technology. The result has been the creation of significant availability
of higher performance base oils in a market which, ironically, generally does not yet need them.

Why did Europe and North America, two interrelated base oil markets with many very similar driving forces at play,
diverge in their approach to improving base oil quality and performance? Will this disparity in base oil supply
capability widen or narrow in the future? Will the availability of higher-performing Group II/III base oils in Asia
drive existing Group I producers to upgrade to Group II/III, as it did in North America? What further changes are in
store for the base oil industry, in each of these regions, in the future?

This paper will attempt to answer these questions by examining the underlying drivers for change in each of these
three major regions. Because of similarities in their technical requirements, North American and European lubricant
and base oil markets will be discussed first. These two markets will then be compared and contrasted in terms of
how base oil suppliers have responded to these forces. Next, the Asian base oil market, where drivers are mostly
commercial rather than technical, will be discussed briefly. By examining these many varied driving factors, both
technical and commercial, in each of the three markets, the authors hope to shed light on why the base oil industry is
where it is today, and where it may be going in the future.

North American Base Oil Trends

In the North American market, transportation lubricants is the primary category in which the most significant base
oil changes are occurring. These changes are seen most prominently in motor oils and automatic transmission
fluids, and are being driven in large part by more stringent manufacturer specifications. And while the factors
affecting each type of product (e.g., passenger car motor oils, heavy duty motor oils) are somewhat different, they
share the same themes of longer life, cleaner operation and lesser environmental impact.

Performance levels of other lubricants, such as industrial oils and hydraulic fluids, also are moving in the direction
of higher quality. This is due in part to the availability of higher quality base oils that are emerging in response to
transportation lubricant requirements. Although OEM-driven performance enhancements are less common in this
very broad category of lubricants, equipment users welcome performance improvements that boost profitability by
reducing downtime, extending equipment life, and increasing productivity. This, plus a trend toward more severe
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operating conditions in some types of equipment has spurred a movement toward premium-grade industrial oils that
use advanced base oils as their foundation.

The major drivers for change in each of these two product categories will be discussed below, with emphasis on the
base oil changes that they have spurred in North America. This is followed by some speculation on what trends may
be seen in the future.

Transportation Lubricants

Passenger Car Motor Oil

By far the most prevalent of the transportation lubricants are motor oils, generally split into passenger car motor oils
(PCMO) and heavy duty motor oils (HDMO). In each arena, environmental pressure placed on engine
manufacturers, in one form or another, is the key factor forcing these OEMs to create new engine oil categories that
require higher performance. Along with this pressure is increasing customer demand for reducing operating costs
and/or maintenance time.

In the case of PCMO, the environmental pressure takes two key forms, which also fall in alignment with customer-
based drivers. These are:

Improved Fuel Economy: Manufacturers who sell vehicles in the U.S. are required to meet specific Corporate
Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, or face severe fines. With the proliferation of larger vehicles,
particularly Sport/Utility Vehicles (SUVs), fleet average fuel economy has actually declined in recent years
such that it is now very difficult for some manufacturers to meet CAFE standards [1]. Though most consumers
in North America, particularly those who are propagating the trend to larger vehicles, care little about fuel
economy, OEMs are anxious to gain improvements through any available technical means.

Through proper formulation, PCMO can yield a modest benefit in fuel economy relative to today’s typical oils.
Moreover, due to the need to demonstrate to regulators that engine oil-derived fuel economy benefits don’t
disappear shortly after the oil goes into the engine, the need has arisen to develop engine oils with fuel economy
retention. In addition to improved additive technology, these requirements demand better base oils.
Specifically, the base oil must have lower volatility than current oils to help resist evaporative-induced
thickening, and it must be more stable to resist oxidation, which also causes viscosity increase, and additive
depletion, which can reduce the effectiveness of friction modifiers. Moreover, all of these changes must take
place simultaneously with a shift toward lower viscosity grades; SAE 5W-30 is now the recommended oil for
most 2000 model year cars, with 5W-20 proposed for the very near future.

Cleanliness of Engine and Emissions Controls: - With ever more stringent limits on vehicle tailpipe emissions,
vehicle manufacturers are requiring increasingly cleaner engines and systems that affect emissions performance.
This requires lower oil consumption to protect catalysts and oxygen sensors, as well as to minimize direct
emissions from combustion of engine oil. Also required are cleaner internal engine components, particularly
the pistons and rings, which have a significant impact on cylinder sealing and thus control of blowby gases and
oil consumption. Again, base oil quality plays an important role. Engine oil volatility has been shown to have a
significant impact on oil consumption, and this volatility is determined almost entirely by the base oil. Thus,
lower oil consumption demands lower volatility base oils. Lower engine deposits, though most strongly
affected by additive formulation, also can be reduced by using more stable base stocks, which resist oxidation
and therefore the formation of deposit precursors.

On the consumer side, most drivers are happy to reduce the amount of maintenance that must be performed on
their cars. With current tune-up and major service intervals now as great as 160,000 km, engine oil is the most
frequent maintenance item on most modern cars. Also, many people now lease vehicles instead of buying them,
and many of these lessees have little interest in opening their hoods between required service points, much less
checking their oil and topping it off if indicated. In addition the same lubricant must suffice for both summer
and winter use. Thus, an engine oil with greater life, lower oil consumption, and stable low and high
temperature viscometrics is desired, again reflecting the need for base oils of lower volatility and better
resistance to oxidation.
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The need to address most of the factors described above has been incorporated into the latest PCMO category. The
International Lubricants Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC), made up of automotive OEMs, have
worked with the oil and additive industries to arrive at their proposed GF-3 standard, which will be licensed by API
also as SL, replacing current SJ oils. Nearing completion, this standard will require a significant reduction in
volatility and improvement in fuel economy, as well as require fuel economy retention and an improvement in high-
temperature deposit-forming propensity. Though not explicitly part of the new requirements, these changes may
also provide some modest additional margin of safety when left in the crankcase for the full recommended oil
change interval, particularly for those who, against good practice, tend not to check their oil level between changes.

Effect on Base Oils

For base oils, all of this favors a shift from conventional solvent refined (API Group I) stocks to hydroprocessed
stocks (Group II) The latter stocks have demonstrated superior resistance to oxidation due to the destruction of
unwanted components during processing, yielding a purer base stock that responds better to oxidation-inhibiting
additives. This can be seen particularly in the Sequence IIIF engine test, which uses viscosity increase of the oil
during the test as a measure of oxidation. In Figure 1, for example, it can be seen that Group II oils have
substantially less viscosity increase than Group I oils despite using the same additive formulation. Group II stocks
also tend to allow for better dispersancy of contaminants, leading to lower sludge and varnish levels in tests such as
the Sequence VG. This difference is exemplified in Figure 2, which shows poorer sludge and varnish for Group I
base stocks relative to Group II in this engine test. Several researchers have also shown that Group II stocks offer
benefits in fuel economy relative to Group I stocks, and may have an edge in fuel economy retention [2-4]. All of
these factors indicate that Group II stocks can provide a significant formulating advantage when attempting to meet
upcoming requirements such as GF-3, a projection of which is shown in Figure 3.

Furthermore, most Group II stocks tend to have modestly lower volatility relative to Group I stocks of similar
viscosity, in part due to the composition of the oil but also due to the relatively modern plants where most of them
are manufactured. This should help blenders meet the volatility limit of 15% evaporation in the Noack test, as
proposed for GF-3. 5W-30 oils will require base stocks with a VI of between 110 and 120, substantially higher than
today’s typical paraffinic stocks with VI of 95-105. Because hydroprocessing is the preferred route for increasing
VI to the necessary levels, these stocks almost certainly will be Group II. However, due to their atypically-high VI,
these stocks have been dubbed “Group II-Plus” in lubricant industry circles [5, 6].

Heavy Duty Motor Oil

In the HDMO arena, the environmental pressures are similar to those facing passenger cars, but they derive from
different interests and have a different impact on formulations. As will be discussed, however, the effect on base
stocks – forcing a migration toward higher-quality Group II and Group III stocks – is the same.

Emissions Performance: New engine emissions limitations and recent enforcement actions initiated by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have forced diesel engine manufacturers to find ways to dramatically
reduce emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx), as well as particulates and hydrocarbons, from modern engines.
Some of these strategies, particularly those such as retarded injection timing and EGR that are intended to
reduce NOx, in most cases lead to significantly higher soot levels in the cylinder, which increases soot loading
in the engine oil. High soot levels cause oil thickening, formation of sludge, and can clog filters, as well as
accelerate wear of engine components through abrasion. Some loss of low-temperature pumpability can be seen
also in oils with high soot loading if this soot is not adequately controlled.

Fuel Economy: Though governmental pressure to produce higher fuel economy in on-highway trucks is far less
than what is seen in the passenger car business, truck operators are highly motivated to minimize fuel
consumption as this is a significant part of their total operating expense. In heavy duty engines, fuel economy
can be improved in many cases by using lower viscosity oils, and by preventing viscosity increase during the
life of the oil. Viscosity increase happens in large part due to the accumulation of soot in the oil, as mentioned
above, but can be exacerbated by oil oxidation.

Consumer Pressure: Another key driver in the push for higher oil quality comes from the desire of truck
owners and operators to extend oil drain intervals. The majority of full-size trucks belong to fleets, where
managers understand that changing oil means taking a truck out of service, and taking a truck out of service
means losing potential revenue. Thus, fleet operators have pressed engine manufacturers to guarantee their
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engines for ever-lengthening drain intervals, and OEMs have responded both by design changes and by
requiring higher-quality oil. And once again, the key effect is the requirement to handle higher levels of soot in
the engine oil, since the oil will spend more time in the engine before being replaced. Naturally, this
compounds the pressure brought by the need to meet more stringent emissions standards, placing extreme
pressure on the lubricant.

Effect on Base Oils

In order to handle the ever-increasing levels of combustion-generated soot pushed into HDMO, these oils must
possess high levels of dispersancy. While this has led to increased levels of dispersant additives in oils meeting the
latest specifications, such as API CH-4, Mack EO-M Plus and Cummins CES 20076, it also has been found that
dispersant effectiveness is enhanced in more highly saturated, low sulphur base stocks [7-10]. This is particularly
evidenced in tests such as the Mack T-8 soot thickening test and the Cummins M-11 High Soot Test, where
hydroprocessed Group II base stocks perform significantly better than solvent refined stocks despite using the same
level of additives. This is illustrated in Figure 4, where the performance advantage of Group II stocks in soot-
induced wear and sludge in the Cummins M-11 test is shown. This presents a considerable advantage to formulators
striving to achieve the highest levels of HDMO performance, and is causing a rapid shift from Group I to Group II
stocks in this category of lubricants.

Automatic Transmission Fluid

As part of the total vehicle system in modern passenger cars, the performance of the automatic transmission is
subject to the same pressures of maximizing fuel economy and minimizing maintenance as were described above for
PCMO. In the case of ATF, the key driver is the desire for extended, high-performance service, including “fill for
life” capability. This requires strong resistance to oxidation, viscosity stability, and retention of fluid friction
characteristics so as to both minimize wear and prevent unwanted behavior such as “shudder”. And to be certain
that all automatic transmission functions behave as designed even during start-up in cold weather, manufacturers are
now requiring even lower resistance to pumping, measured by Brookfield viscosity, compared with today’s typical
ATF. And for next-generation ATF, exemplified by Ford’s Mercon® V and DaimlerChrysler’s ATF+4® fluids,
Brookfield viscosity limits are decreasing to about half of current levels, while the shear stability of the fluid must
increase. All of these factors are causing formulators to look to base oils to help achieve the necessary performance.

Effect on Base Oils

In ATF as in other lubricant applications, hydroprocessed Group II and Group III base stocks provide superior
oxidation stability relative to conventional Group I oils. One effect of this is better viscosity control, as
demonstrated in the Mercon® Aluminum Beaker Oxidation Test, where it is seen that Group II stocks resist
oxidative thickening commonly exhibited by solvent refined stocks. Another key benefit of hydroprocessed stocks,
which is linked with oxidation stability, is that they allow ATF to maintain acceptable levels of friction performance
for longer periods of time, since the friction modifying additives used in ATF remain effective longer.

Another key benefit of Group II base stocks, particularly those made with specialized technology such as Chevron’s
Isodewaxing® catalyst, is an improvement in low temperature pumpability relative to solvent refined stocks. This
has allowed current ATF, such as that meeting General Motors Dexron® III or Ford’s Mercon® standards, to
achieve Brookfield viscosity values of less than 20,000 cP @-40°C while maintaining base stock viscosity at around
4.0 cSt @100°C. In combination with the superior oxidation stability just described, this capability has put pressure
on formulators to move to Group II stocks for current ATF applications [11].

Finally, to achieve the combination of even lower Brookfield viscosity and higher shear stability demanded by the
next-generation ATFs, the right very-high VI base stocks must be used. In addition to PAO, this includes some
modern all-hydroprocessed Group III base stocks like Chevron’s UCBOs. These products have the high VI that
allows higher base stock viscosity to be used to minimize levels of viscosity modifiers and thus improve shear
stability, while improving Brookfield viscosity to levels below those achievable with conventional Group II base
stocks. Though relatively low now, the volumes of these ATF products are growing rapidly, and could largely
displace today’s most common ATF types in a few short years, especially in the factory fill and OEM service fill
categories. As a result, Group III penetration into the ATF market should increase rapidly in the near future.
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Gear Oils
As with all of the transportation lubricants discussed so far, gear oils are being driven also to achieve longer life.
This means better oxidation stability and good shear stability, and for the lightest grades that meet 70W and 75W
requirements, low Brookfield viscosity. Gaining OEM approval for extended drain intervals is critical in this field,
and the current benchmark is Eaton/Meritor approval for extended warranty.

Effect on Base Oils

Again, extended life requires a significant improvement in oxidation stability, and this in turn favors all-
hydroprocessed Group II stocks. In the Eaton-approved category, most current products are PAO-based synthetics,
but Group II stocks are beginning to demonstrate the ability to achieve this high level of performance [12]. Group
III stocks also are good candidates for certain applications, especially the lighter multigrade products, where the
combination of high VI and oxidation stability can be used to achieve superior performance.

Industrial Lubricants

While OEM-driven performance enhancements are less common in the industrial lubricants segment, performance
levels are nonetheless increasing in a number of applications. The obvious driver here is that end users and
maintenance managers of industrial equipment encourage anything that improves profitability, and they recognize
that performance improvements in their lubricants can reduce downtime, extend equipment life, minimize
maintenance costs, save energy, and/or allow greater production rates. In some types of equipment, for example
turbines, compressors and industrial gear boxes, there is a trend toward more severe operating conditions such as
higher speeds, temperatures and loads, often compounded by reduced oil reservoir volumes. All of these call for
lubricants with greater oxidation stability, as this can both improve equipment function (e.g., reduce wear and
deposits) as well as increase the useful life of the lubricant. And since most industrial equipment does not
experience wide swings in operating temperatures very frequently, oxidation stability is by far the most important
aspect of industrial lubricant base stocks.

Effect on Base Oils

To achieve higher levels of oxidation stability, formulators of industrial oils have found that Group II base stocks
have a significant advantage over Group I stocks in many different applications. In Figure 5, for example, the
oxidation life in the RBOT test (ASTM D 2272) for hydraulic oils formulated with different base stocks but the
same additive package shows a clear advantage for hydroprocessed stocks, in this case both Group II and Group III.
This has led many lubricant manufacturers to develop and offer industrial lubricants based on these hydroprocessed
stocks, converting products that formerly were blended with solvent refined stocks. Fortunately, this has been
facilitated to a significant degree by the rapid expansion of Group II base oil capacity that has emerged in response
to transportation lubricant requirements.

Although VI is not nearly as important a base stock property as it is in the engine oil and ATF sectors, there are
cases in which industrial lubricants can take advantage of higher VI, including the very high levels offered by Group
III stocks. These applications typically are those that require performance over a wide temperature range, such as
all-weather hydraulic oils. Thus, Group III base stocks are beginning to see application in some areas of the
industrial oil segment, and should continue to grow.

Synthetic Lubricants

Until recently, synthetic lubricants have been blended predominantly with polyalphaolefins or PAO/ester blends.
Although widely available, these stocks are made in relatively small volumes. However, with the latest
developments in hydroprocessing technology, some all-hydroprocessed Group III stocks fairly can be considered
synthetic, since their composition clearly shows them to be man-made [13-14]. Just as important, these stocks
possess properties and exhibit performance comparable to PAO in key areas such as oxidation stability, VI, and
volatility. As a result, they are viable alternatives to PAO for formulating synthetic lubricants in both transportation
and industrial applications. Moreover, the potential capacity for manufacturing such stocks is quite large, as much
of the technology now deployed in making Group II stocks can be applied to manufacturing Group III. Therefore,
substantial growth in the Group III market is expected as formulators take advantage of this new opportunity,
leading to a significant acceleration in the growth of the synthetic market.
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Base Oil Trends for European Motor Lubricants

Significant changes are occurring in transportation lubricants in Western Europe. As in North America, one of the
areas of most significant and rapid change is in lubricants for trucks and passenger cars. The changes to the
requirements being placed on the finished lubricant are having an impact on the desired properties of the base oil
used in these fluids. New sources of Group III stocks have entered the marketplace in the last several years. At the
present time, Group III stocks have become a cost effective way to meet the physical and performance requirements
of European engine lubricants while still allowing usage of the major quantity of Group I stocks manufactured in the
region. This trend is continuing as new demands on the finished lubricant continue to highlight the advantages
provided by higher VI, highly saturated base stocks. These trends impact both the light duty (passenger car) and
heavy duty (trucks) lubricant formulations, although some differences exist in the driving forces.

Heavy Duty Motor Oil

There are a variety of driving factors that are impacting the base oil needs for heavy duty motor oils in Western
Europe. These include:

• Emission Regulations,
• Environmental concerns,
• Vehicle operating costs,
• Lubricant formulation cost and supply.

Increasingly stringent exhaust emission regulations are being placed on heavy duty engines within the European
Union. The “Euro-3” regulations went into effect this year and the next stage, Euro-4, is planned for 2005. These
regulations are having significant impacts on engine design and consequently lubricant performance requirements.
In addition there are indirect environmental concerns beyond the emission regulations cited above. One of these is
the reduction of CO2 emissions. The most direct way to reduce CO2 emissions is to reduce fuel consumption.
Disposal of used engine oil is another environmental issue. Reducing drain frequency reduces the amount of waste
oil generated. Some of the concerns highlighted by European truck manufacturers for lubricants include:

• Soot related wear and viscosity increase,

• Oxidation resistance,
• High temperature deposit control,
• Fuel Economy.

Operating costs in commercial truck fleets is an ongoing issue. Truck manufacturers are striving to reduce fuel
consumption because this is critical to their competitive position. In addition, they are increasing the vehicle service
intervals. Drain intervals have increased from the range of 30,000km several years ago to as much as 100,000km
today. These increases have been linked to new generations of engine hardware and are allowed by increased
performance and durability from the lubricant. Further extensions of drain interval are anticipated in the near future,
again coupled with higher performance lubricants.

Unlike the American HDMO market, the European market has a degree of segmentation. This segmentation has
paralleled the different levels of ACEA and OEM approval performance levels. At the lower end of the market are
mixed fleet oils designed to meet the needs of both passenger cars and heavy duty trucks. A typical profile is ACEA
A2/B2/E2 API CG-4, Mercedes Benz 228.1, Volvo VDS, and MAN 271. At higher performance levels the
lubricants are typically products dedicated to HDMO application without gasoline engine performance claims,
although some retain some level of claims for gasoline engines. These are typically mineral based 15W-40 or semi-
synthetic 10W-40 grades and would claim ACEA B3/E3 API CG-4, Mercedes Benz 228.3, MAN 3275, and Volvo
VDS 2. At the top of the market are the top-tier diesel-only products claiming the highest levels of OEM approvals.
These products are either semi-synthetic 10W-40 or synthetic 5W-30s claiming ACEA E4, Mercedes Benz 228.5,
and Volvo VDS 2. Recently the US API CH-4 and ACEA E5 specifications have entered the market. These
products represent a further improvement in soot handling requirements.
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At least as important as the technical drivers related to lubricant performance demands, supply and cost issues are
major drivers on current and future base oil needs. As usage of high performance base stocks increases, an assured
supply of cost effective, high performance, base stocks is essential. The impact of an interruption of supply of high
performance base stocks was observed recently when one of Europe’s major Group III base stock suppliers was
unable to supply product. This situation fueled the realization that additional supplies of such base stocks were

Effect on Base Oils

Performance factors identified above are increasing demands on lubricant formulations. Many of the current
advances in overall engine oil performance are as much related to improvements in base stock properties as to
improvements in additive chemistry. Issues specific to HDMO include:

• Soot related viscosity increase control

• Soot related wear control
• High temperature oxidation stability
• Reduced volatility
• Higher viscosity Index

Desirable base stock properties to address these needs include:

• High level of saturation

• Very low sulphur
• Improved oxidative stability and response to oxidation inhibitors
• Increased viscosity index
• Reduced volatility
• Large volume availability
• Reasonable cost-performance

Significant advantages can be shown for lubricant formulations based on Group II or Group III base oils compared
to Group 1. In particular:

• Soot related wear and viscosity increase. As shown in North America, the additive requirements to meet
specifications such as ACEA E5-99 and API CH-4 are significantly lower for highly saturated, low sulphur
base stocks, such as Group II and III stocks.
• Improved oxidation stability is observed in finished lubricants using Group II or III base stocks. Advantage
can be taken of this by either the use of a more cost optimized inhibition system or by improved overall
lubricant stability.
• Higher viscosity index base oils such as Group II+ or Group III (or Group IV) allow the blending of lower
viscosity oils whilst continuing to meet viscometric and volatility requirements. While the majority of
HDMO in Europe are presently SAE 15W-40, we anticipate a move towards SAE 10W-30 in order to offer
improved fuel economy.

Unlike North America, there is only limited capacity for Group II base stocks in Europe. Due to the excess capacity
of solvent refined Group I stocks, there has not yet been a large-scale shift in base oil processing technology towards
hydroprocessing for 100VI base stocks. However, this situation could potentially change in the near future, with a
new refiner having recently announced plans to build an all-hydroprocessing lube plant. Petrola Hellas S.A., a
Greek refiner, has licensed Chevron’s hydrocracking and Isodewaxing® technology to make Group II, Group II+
and Group III base oils in Greece by 2003, and market them in Europe and elsewhere exclusively through Chevron.
The pressure to utilize Group II base stocks in conventional viscosity grades such as 15W-40 may increase sharply if
other base oil suppliers follow this lead and invest in hydroprocessing technology.

In the mean time, there has been considerable expansion in the supply of Group III stocks in the region. The
increasing availability of these stocks make lower viscosity HDMO a more attractive possibility, since mixing
Group I and III stocks provides the required viscometric properties as well as some level of performance benefit.
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However, the wholesale shift to take advantage of the benefits of fully-hydroprocessed stocks must await the
emergence of a critical mass of such stocks in Europe, an event that seems on the verge of occurring.

Passenger Car Motor Oil

Key driving factors that are impacting base oil trends in Europe include:

• Emission and environmental regulations

• Trend toward reduced service intervals
• Market segmentation
• OEM-specific oils

Emission and environmental regulations are putting even greater pressure on passenger car fuel consumption. This
is driven both by the regulatory drive for lower exhaust emissions, including CO2 , as well as consumer pressure due
to increasing fuel taxes. In addition to this there is a strong move by a number of European passenger car
manufacturers to extend service intervals to as much as 30,000 km.

Unlike North America, the passenger car engine oils market in Europe has several distinct tiers of performance. The
performance claims, viscosity grade, and type of base stock used differentiate these. A major part of the market is
driven primarily by ACEA performance requirements. A large portion of this market is driven by SAE 10W-40
products claiming ACEA A3/B3 along with some OEM requirements, such as VW 500 (though now obsolete) and
505, which are similar to this performance level. A higher tier of products are typically considered to be ‘semi-
synthetic’ and normally are 5W-40 or 5W-30 products. These products claim ACEA performance but also add a
number of upper tier OEM approvals such as BMW, Porsche, and DaimlerChrylser. Finally, at the top of the market
are fully synthetic products that are now moving to grades such as 0W-40. A distinguishing feature of almost all of
these products is the maintenance of a high temperature high shear rate (HTHS) viscosity of 3.5 cP in order to meet
the majority of European OEM requirements.

In addition to consumer products, a recent phenomenon is the development of OEM-specific factory fill lubricants
meeting the unique requirements of the OEM. What distinguishes these new generation factory fill oils is that they
are focusing on providing top level performance designed specifically for the OEM’s engine. The first generations
of these oils have been low viscosity products with reduced HTHS viscosity in order to improve fuel economy. The
current Volkswagen factory fill specification 521.73 is an example of such oil. This OEM requirement specifies a
high performance 0W-30 for factory fill purposes. Both Mercedes Benz and Opel are also targeting similar specific
high performance fluids for factory fill application, although the specific requirements of each are designed to meet
the needs of the specific OEM. To date, the market impact of these products is unclear.

Effect on Base Oils

Mainline PCMO products claiming ACEA performance are typically SAE 10W-40, 15W-40, or 15W-50. The 10W-
40 grade in Europe is typically comprised of a mixture of Group I with 10-20% Group III or Group IV in order to
meet volatility requirements. Group III is favored over Group IV for this purpose because it is a more cost-effective
product for volatility control. The alternative to mixtures of conventional Group I and Group III stocks is the
production of specific, low volatility solvent extracted neutrals. However, by nature, these base stocks are
expensive to manufacture via solvent extraction. In North America we have observed the introduction of Group II+
stocks to address a similar issue. However, the trend in Europe, for the time, is to combine the existing Group I
stocks with the increasingly-available Group III base oils. This trend could begin to change, though, when Petrola
comes into the market in the near future with hydroprocessed Group II+, as well as Group II and Group III base

In the past few years we have seen the 5W-30 and 5W-40 products evolving from Group IV/V blends to mixtures
which comprise high levels of Group III stocks. As with the 10W-40 products, the motivation is reduced cost whilst
maintaining most rheological properties. The 0W-30/40 products remain blended with Group IV and V stocks at
this time.
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Overall there is a trend to lower viscosity products. This is seen both in the factory fill and service requirements.
These requirements can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but it is becoming clear that reduced viscosity in
order to improve fuel efficiency is a common one. This is coupled with the maintenance of current volatility limits
as well as increased performance standards. For example, the TU5JP test being developed as a replacement for the
TU3MH is expected to put further pressure on oxidation and volatility performance requirements. In addition, a
split on HTHS viscosity requirements among OEMs in Europe has developed. Some OEMs are promoting low
HTHS viscosity products (2.9 cP) while others still require 3.5 cP minimum. As viscosity grades are reduced and
performance requirements increase, it is becoming necessary to use increasing amounts of high VI base stock in
combination with less Group 1 in order to meet the expanding, and often conflicting combinations of requirements.

Tests that are developed to demonstrate long drain capabilities are stressing the volatility and oxidative stability of
base oils. In these tests, such as the VW PV1449 and VW TDi, the performance benefits of Group III base stocks
versus Group I become evident. Some of these test requirements stress volatility to the point where the Group 1
stocks comprise a minority of the base stock blend. While Group IV performs well, in many cases Group III can
offer a cost-effective alternative.

Several performance and environmental issues are impacting the future of base oils in Europe. The significant treat
cost benefits for top tier HDMO products related to Group II or III base stocks is well known to oil marketers. In
addition, increasing pressure on oil durability and reduced viscosity demands use of higher quality base stocks.
Group III stocks have been used in Europe for a number of years but have recently increased in importance as
commercial supply and performance demands have increased. These Group III stocks have been used in lieu of the
introduction of widespread use of Group II or Group II+ stocks because they allow the continued utilization of the
existing Group I manufacturing infrastructure. However, we see pressures on both the HDMO and PCMO sides
which could in the longer term put such combinations at a disadvantage versus base stock mixes comprised entirely
of highly saturated, low sulphur base stocks such as those resulting from hydroprocessing technology. Several of
these factors are discussed above, including improved soot handling which allows lower additive treatment costs,
improved deposit formation tendency, greater oxidation stability, and better ability to tailor volatility. In addition, in
the future we recognize the increasing concern about the contribution of lubricant sulphur to after-treatment
durability. Since a Group I stock is a significant source of the lubricant-based sulphur, it may become necessary to
reduce these levels as the next generation of emission control systems begin to enter the market place in the last half
of this decade. At least one refiner, Petrola Hellas, has seen the writing on the wall and has made plans to
introduced all-hydroprocessed Group II/II+/III base stocks in Europe beginning in 2003. This signals that the
beginning of a widespread change in the European base oil industry may be just around the corner.

Comparison and Contrast: The North American and European Markets

The base oil market, especially in North America, is going through unprecedented change today. This switch to
fast-changing base oil product specifications, which started in the early 1990s, was initially met with modest
changes in existing hardware and introduction of specialty supplemental products, especially in Europe.

But as the specifications transitioned from upgrades in physical properties, such as volatility, to chemical
performance upgrades, such as oxidation stability, fundamental changes in the way producers met the challenge
were seen. Recognizing the inherent inflexibility of solvent technology, and the substantial investment in that
technology needed just to make the next hurdle vis-a-vis the better cost position of the newer technologies,
producers started building Group II/II+/III plants - but mostly in North America.

Why, given the similarity in direction and underlying driving factors did this same shift in manufacturing not take
place in Europe? The answer lies largely in timing. As has been discussed, Europe introduced stringent volatility
requirements in the early 1990s that could be met cost-effectively by bringing fuels hydrocracker bottoms streams
into an existing solvent plant for processing to what we now call Group III base oil. With some notable exceptions,
these oils were designed mostly to address volatility.

In North America, the drive to improved volatility was slower in coming and coincided with development of engine
tests, such as the Mack T8, that preferred highly-saturated base oils, typically Group II or greater. The higher
Page 11

saturates content also brings better oxidative and thermal stability that brings many other desired benefits described
earlier. Simultaneously, in the mid 1990s base oil processing technology advancements, mostly led by Chevron,
offered a solution to these and other problems by offering:

• Better volatility through higher VI,

• Better oxidative/thermal stability through higher saturates,
• Better low temperature performance through catalytic dewaxing, e.g. Chevron’s ISODEWAXING®
• More flexibility to meet the changing needs of the base oil market through modern plant design and the
capability to move from Group II to III or anywhere in between,
• Greater crude source flexibility,
• Much lower operating cost to run a Group II plant – critical in a mature market with flat growth.

Thus, the concomitant availability of technology for licensing, the need for flexibility to manufacture Group II and
Group III base oils, and the development of specifications that demanded such oils drove North American suppliers
to build new Group II/III plants rather than follow the European solution of just a few years earlier.

In addition to these events, three other factors made this move to Group II/III plants gain momentum in North

• The prior existence of Chevron’s, Petro Canada’s, and Sun’s Group II plants in North America meant that many
formulators were already familiar with how to work with these types of base stocks.

• Conoco and Pennzoil’s new joint venture plant, Excel Paralubes, meant that the largest PCMO supplier in North
America was going to Group II.

• Group II technology licensing became practical and competitive, with more than one supplier.

As a result, Group II/III capacity expanded so rapidly that now, after only a few short years, these base stocks are
approaching half of the paraffinic base oil capacity in North America. With such a critical mass of these stocks now
here, movement of specifications to take advantage of these higher quality base stocks has accelerated, as evidenced
by both GF-3 and PC-9. It would have been inconceivable just a few years earlier that a 15% Noack volatility
specification would have survived the various industry committees that develop and approve these specifications.
Industry’s rapid and cost-effective commercialization of Group II+ base stocks made this possible.

While the extensive availability of Group II stocks facilitates rapid change in lubricant specifications, there are also
supply chain drivers that slow them down in North America:

• Incumbent Group I suppliers find themselves falling farther and farther behind, with little opportunity to
upgrade due to low industry margins and high capital costs, and the promise of very high remediation costs
preventing them from exiting the business.

• Independent lubricant manufacturers, who are dependent on purchased base oils, see specifications that would
require higher-priced Group III base oils as an unfair advantage to the majors who are basic in those stocks.
Evidence of this position can be seen in their apparent acceptance of GF-3 volatility specifications requiring
lower-priced Group II+ base oils, but their recent opposition to inclusion of Group III base oils in the upcoming
PC-9 precision testing matrix.

Short product life cycles demonstrate how quickly drivers of base oil quality are changing, and serve notice of things
to come. For example, Chevron introduced Neutral Oil 100RLV for use as a low volatility engine oil component
coincident with ILSAC GF-2 in 1996. In preparation for GF-3, that product was discontinued in 1999, just three
short years after it’s inception - even less than the life cycle of the specification for which it was designed. In the
future, such short lifetimes will become more common, with our industry behaving much more like the additives
industry by quickly responding to changing customer needs with new product offerings tailored to address those
Page 12

Fortunately, North America is capable of creating new base oil products to meet the changing needs of formulators
largely because of the inherent flexibility of the new generation of hydroprocessing-based plants. The creation of
Group II+ base oils in North America is a good illustration of this adaptability. None of these products existed prior
to the first GF-3 specification proposal. Yet, once the goal was defined, the new breed of base oil suppliers
independently worked with additive suppliers and lubricant customers to develop products to address the volatility
challenge of GF-3. The results were in every case a 110-119 VI Group II base oil, now commonly called Group II+.
These products are the most cost-effective solution for the industry, bringing maximum value to the consumer. With
future specifications we will continue to see the base oil industry in North America respond to technical challenges
by offering custom designed base oils to meet an industry need, and do so quickly. The North American base oil
industry has woken up and became dynamic in responding to ever-tightening specifications.

That is not to say that the European base oil market is not also dynamic and responsive to specification challenges,
because it is. However, due to the relative inflexibility of the dominant Group I facilities and even much of the first-
generation Group III facilities, the options available to European producers are more limited at the moment. The
fact that most of the Group III facilities have limited capacities and cannot make Group II or Group II+ stocks limits
the rapid upgrading of mainstream motor oils. Whatever can be achieved with additives in combination with
existing Group I stocks, supplemented with modest Group III volumes, determines mainstream performance. While
current mainstream specifications can be met through this combination, the question is can future specifications?

In North America, key majors stepped out and made the plunge to manufacture Group II stocks. Now, this seems to
be on the verge of happening in Europe, with Petrola planning to offer Group II, II+ and III base stocks in the near
future. Until now, the dominant producers have appeared to be content with their current Group I plants, despite the
movement of their North American counterparts to Group II production. With the expected introduction of
hydroprocessed Group II by a new supplier in Europe, the pressure to move to modern Group II/III capability may
soon begin.

The globalization of motor oil specifications in recent years, though slow and far from complete, has brought North
American bench and engine tests to Europe and vice versa. With substantial Group II/III capacity to address these
new tests that often prefer Group II/III base oils, many North American suppliers are well positioned to take
advantage of these stocks, resulting in lower additive treat rates for those who have access to these components. In
Europe, since there is minimal Group II capacity, the playing field is even, with all blenders using higher additive
treats and/or Group III or IV base stocks to meet the most stringent specifications. Two situations promise to disrupt
this equilibrium: 1) a new Group II supplier offers these products at competitive prices to the European market, and
2) top tier or OEM specifications become so demanding that Group I base stocks are effectively excluded from that
segment of the market.

It is no surprise, then, that the transition to hydroprocessing in Europe is starting. Fortum (formerly Neste) has
successfully built a Chevron–licensed Group III plant in Finland, and are marketing their stocks effectively. Petrola
Hellas, as mentioned before, has recently announced plans to build a Chevron-licensed Group II/III base oil plant in
Greece by 2003. Although their product slate could change, plans are to offer a 5cSt Group III product, and two
grades of Group II, likely 150N and 500N, all of which will be marketed by Chevron. Thus, the tide in Europe
seems poised to shift toward Group II/III stocks – with the question now more a matter of speed, not whether.

Asian Base Oil Product Trends

Product trends in the Asian base oil market are substantially different than those in Europe and North
America. While the two mature economies discussed above are driven to upgrade based to a significant extent,
though not entirely, on ever increasing product performance hurdles, the Asian base oil product trends are minimally
driven by performance needs. In Asia the current mainstream motor oils are API SE, SF, SG and/or CC, CD quality
where almost any Group I base oil meets the need, and where Group II/III are completely unnecessary.
Transportation lubricants dominate the total lubricant market, though industrial oils and marine oils are growing. In
addition, approximately 75% of the motor oil market is reported to be single grade motor oils, which is about
opposite of the multigrade/monograde ratio found in North America and Europe. This bias towards single grades,
inspired by warmer climates and widespread perceptions that “thicker is better”, results in base oil products heavily
Page 13

emphasizing heavy neutral grades, mostly 500N. Bright stocks and 150N typically fill out the product slate but are
smaller percentages.

There is a trend to higher performance multigrades driven by OEM warranty requirements and by the multinational
oil companies’ desire to grow their top tier product offerings for better margins. These products do find a need for
Group II/III, but their market share is still small and they are not a major driver for base oil product upgrades.

Despite minimal need for higher performance base oils, Asia has seen a number of new base oil plants come on
stream in recent years (2 in Thailand, one each in Singapore, Korea and China), and more are slated to start up in the
next few years. While the region had a base oil deficit, the new supply has more than made up for this, to the extent
that Asia now has excess base oil capacity.

These new plants have been a mixture of Group I and Group II/III, with the latter plants all using the newer
hydroprocessing technologies. The robust Asian economies of the mid-1990s and the base oil deficit made it easy to
justify construction of these plants, and the more common choice of adopting Group II/III capability was driven
mostly by the lower cost of operating such plants. However, the recent Asian economic slowdown coupled with
weak base oil prices due to excess capacity should temporarily slow or stop construction of additional new or
upgraded base oil plants in the region.

But we do not anticipate that this expansion will stop entirely. There are a number of reasons why there will still be
upgrades and new plants in the near future:

• The lowering of trade barriers has intensified competition, and forced many national oil companies to compete
on a global scale through improved operations - some through upgrading the quality of their products.

• Large automotive and heavy-duty OEMs, particularly common now due to consolidation, mergers and joint
ventures, are pushing for uniform, high-quality lubricants that meet the same specifications throughout the

These drivers will spur investment despite the reality that low base oil prices and a slow economic recovery would
suggest that these plants often should be marginal investments. When a new plant is being contemplated, low
operational cost and crude flexibility are the biggest drivers; which in turn favors Group II/III facilities. The
flexibility to upgrade from Group II to Group III, important in the future, is also a consideration, though not the most
important factor.

Projections Regarding Future Asian Base Oil Product Trends

The Asian base oil market will continue to be dominated by Group I facilities, though Group II/III plants will play a
significant role in the market. Many of the older inefficient and poorer quality Group I plants will continue to
operate into the future, often driven by local governmental pressure to maintain operations for full employment. As
a result we see the possibility of continuing base oil capacity overhang for some time for this region, though the
extent and length depend on the rate of economic recovery. In fact, if the economy accelerates significantly, the
current regional supply excess could diminish fairly rapidly. Nevertheless, any new start-ups in the region will not
have the luxury of backing out imports as did some recent plants, and therefore will have to battle it out with local
producers for market share.

The continued availability of the lower tier base oils will also sustain the strong position of the corresponding lower
tier lubricants that now dominate large parts of Asia. Group II/III plants still will be built, though at a slower pace
than in the 1990s. There may even be some upgrades of existing Group I plants to Group II/III. These volumes will
be more than sufficient to meet the performance needs of lubricants well into the future. In fact, the more immediate
product need for the near future in Asia is flexibility to shift to lighter viscosity grades as the market moves from
single grade to multi-grade motor oils. Again, modern Group II/III plants have greater flexibility in this dimension
than older Group I plants. Only in the medium term will the need for flexibility to transition from Group II to Group
III be needed as Asia moves to low volatility, fuel conserving and high performance motor oils as currently being
asked for in the mature economies of Western Europe, North America and Japan.
Page 14

Though relatively complacent for decades, the base oil industry has seen remarkable change in the last ten years, a
process likely to continue into the future. In the more developed regions of the world, particularly North America
and Western Europe, changes have been spurred in large part by increasingly more stringent performance
requirements for passenger car and heavy duty motor oils. In the past, advances in chemical additive technology
have provided the majority of performance improvements in such lubricants. However, the combination of
advances in base oil manufacturing technology, particularly hydroprocessing technology such as offered by
Chevron’s hydrocracking and Isodewaxing® catalysts, and the advent of performance requirements which respond
strongly to base oil quality has changed this paradigm.

Base stock suppliers, seeing this demand, are responding by moving more and more to offer these newer
hydroprocessed base oils. In North America, where the timing of new requirements and the availability of
competitive processing technology coincided, a large-scale shift from Group I to Group II, II+ and III base stocks
has occurred, so that these stocks now represent approximately 40% of the total paraffinic base oil market in the
region. In Europe, where higher performance (and somewhat different) requirements slightly preceded those on the
other side of the Atlantic, specialty Group III products sprang up instead, postponing somewhat a more widespread
conversion to hydroprocessed Group II/II+/III capacity. However, with one such new plant already offering Group
III and another planning to come on line with Group II, II+ and III in the near future, migration away from Group I
stocks may begin to occur in Western Europe, also. As a result, motor oil products which benefit from higher
quality base stocks are becoming widespread in these two regions. By using Group II, Group II+ or Group III
stocks, many more alternatives exist for meeting the latest and highest quality specifications, and/or achieving high
quality at lower additive treat rates.

In Asia, the base oil landscape is changing rapidly also, although for much less performance-driven reasons. There,
the combination of a former regional supply shortfall, plus the desire of manufacturers to run plants that offer the
lowest possible operating cost along with feed source flexibility have driven the construction of new plants, more
commonly of the hydroprocessing variety. Although this recent capacity, in combination with the current economic
downturn in the region have led to a supply surplus, economic recovery will erode this overhang and return the
region closer to balance. Further, with much of the new capacity in the Group II/II+/III category, the ability of this
region to jump to higher performance levels is significant, and with equipment OEM’s desires to employ the same
high-quality lubricants in all regions of the world, taking advantage of these better base stocks is just a matter of

With all of this change in base oils throughout the world, particularly the addition of new hydroprocessing plants,
the downside has been an increase in supply that has outstripped growth and demand in this industry. However,
with clear advantages for the newer hydroprocessed stocks, the consolidation that has taken place in the base oil
industry has been in the Group I category, a trend which is expected to continue. Although worldwide excess base
oil supply is likely to continue for some time, stocks in the Group II, Group II+ and Group III category should
nevertheless be preferred for their advantages in engine oils, the biggest of all lubricant segments. This, plus the
operating cost benefits of hydroprocessing plants should position these stocks relatively well in an industry where
worldwide future growth is expected to be modest.
Page 15


[1] U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Automotive
Fuel Economy Program, Twenty-third Annual Report to Congress, Calendar Year 1998.

[2] Crosthwait, K., May, C., and Deane, B.C., “The Effect of High Quality Basestocks on PCMO Fuel
Economy”, NPRA Paper No. LW-99-126, 1999.

[3] Kiovsky, T.E., Yates, N.C., and Bales, J.R., “Use of Lo w-Viscosity, Low-Volatility Basestocks in
Formulation of High Performance Motor Oils”, SAE Paper 922348, 1992.

[4] Igarishi, J., Kagaya, M., Satoh, T., and Nagashima, T., “High Viscosity Index Petroleum Base Stocks – The
High Potential Base Stocks for Fuel Economy Automotive Lubricants”, SAE Paper No. 920659, 1992.

[5] McFall, D., “Base Stock Struggle”, Lubes ’n’ Greases, Vol. 5., No. 3, pp. 26-9, March 1999.

[6] DeMarco, N., “Selling Group II-Plus”, Lubes ’n’ Greases, Vol. 5., No. 3, pp. 32-3, March 1999.

[7] McGeehan, J.A., et. al., “The World’s First Diesel Engine Oil Category for Use With Low-Sulfur Fuel: API
CG-4”, SAE Paper No. 941939, 1994.

[8] McGeehan, J.A., et. al., “New Diesel Engine Oil Category for 1998: API CH-4”, SAE Paper No. 981371,

[9] McGeehan, J.A., Alexander III, W., Ziemer, J.N., Roby, S.H., and Graham, J.P., “The Pivotal Role of
Crankcase Oil in Preventing Soot Wear and Extending Filter Life in Low Emission Diesel Engines”, SAE
Paper No. 1999-01-1525, 1999.

[10] Scott, G., “Cleaner Air, Tougher Oil”, Lubricants World, Vol. 9, No. 7, pp. 16-9, July 1999.

[11] Ward, W.C., “Global Appeal”, Lubricants World, Vol. 9, No. 12, pp. 16-8, December 1999.

[12] Bui, K., “Extended Honors”, Lubricants World, Vol. 9, No. 12, pp. 31-4, December 1999.

[13] Adam, P.S., “Showdown for Synthetics”, Lubes ’n’ Greases, Vol. 5., No. 12, pp. 18-22, November 1999.

[14] Bui, K. “A Defining Moment for Synthetics, Part 1 of 2”, Lubricants World, Vol. 9, No. 10, pp. 30-40,
October 1999.
Page 16

Effect of Base Stock Group on

Sequence IIIF Viscosity Increase

Group II/II+ Group I Group I plus AO

Figure 1. Effect of base stock on viscosity increase in the Sequence IIIF engine test.
‘AO’ refers to antioxidant.

Effect of Base Stock Type on Sequence VG

Group II/II+ Group I

Average Engine Sludge Average Engine Varnish

Figure 2. Effect of base stock on average sludge and varnish ratings in the Sequence
VG engine test. Higher ratings are better.
Page 17

GF3 Estimated Base Stock Impact Group I versus Group II

(Group I = 70% saturates/0.4% S)

Relative additive dosage: 105

Group I = 100%





Group I Group II

Figure 3. Potential formulating advantage of Group II relative to Group I in GF-3


Impact of Base Stock on Cummins M11


6 Group I
4 Group II

Crosshead Wear Sludge

Figure 4. Effect of base stock on sludge and valvetrain crosshead wear in the Cummins
M11 engine test. Higher deposit ratings and lower wear are better.
Page 18

Hydraulic Oil Oxidation Stability








Group I Group II Group III

Base Stock

Figure 5. Effect of base stock on oxidation stability for a hydraulic oil formulation, in
the RBOT test (ASTM D 2272).