Bio based Lubricants to Become the New Norm
Historically, bio-lubricants have constituted a small percentage of the finished lubricants market globally. The leading markets for bio-lubricants are primarily in North America and Europe, including the United States, Germany, and the Nordic countries.
In 2014, the market seemed to have tremendous potential. Now, in the early days of 2017, we are slowly witnessing the fruits of that potential. Government regulations and procurement seem to have created a demand for bio-based lubricants. However, it seems government initiatives alongside regulations and emergence of high performance basestocks are pushing the once niche segment to the forefront, albeit moderately.
In 2016, several U.S. government agencies, such as the Air Force and Department of Defense, are testing bio-based motor oils, with the intention of converting to them in non-tactical ground vehicles once these products are commercially available. If the agencies approve bio-based motor oils, they could require its usage in their fleet of roughly 200,000 vehicles. Potentially, this could spread across all government agency fleets, including civilian and military services, which would increase the number to over 600,000 vehicles.
If the public sector adopts bio-lubricants, this will drive demand for them in the United States and most likely trickle down to other markets in the world.
All of this is possible due to the availability of high performance bio-sourced basestocks from companies like Novvi, Biosynthetic Technologies, and Advonex.
Global lubricant majors are also entering this market. In November 2016, BP announced that it is entering the bio-lubricants segment with the launch of Edge Bio-Synthetic motor oil, which is the company’s first ever plant-based product. BP claims that the product is indistinguishable in terms of performance from other BP and Castrol products; however, a quarter of the formulation is plant-based. The product is expected to hit shelves and online retailers in early 2017.
Manufacturers are taking the leap into bio-based products, and more will likely follow. As a result of regulations, increasing environmental cognizance, and increased demand for sustainable but high performance lubricants, bio-based formulations permeating the market are expected.