Driven by strong growth in vehicle ownership and ongoing industrialization in the developing countries of Asia, world demand for lubricants is forecast to increase 2.4% per year to 43.6 million metric tons in 2017, according to a report released earlier this week by the Freedonia Group.
South America and Africa/Mideast will experience above average growth based on healthy economic growth, rising manufacturing output, and expanding motor vehicle parks -- all of which will benefit lubricant consumption, according to the report.
In contrast, demand will remain nearly flat in the developed countries of North America and Western Europe. In these areas efficiency gains will offset new demand from rising economic and industrial output. Although volume growth will be restrained in these regions, lubricant suppliers will benefit from increasing demand for premium, high value products such as synthetic and biobased lubricants.
Process oils, Hydraulic Fluids Strongest Growth
Engine oils, including those used in motor vehicle and other applications, constitute the largest product segment. Although growing motor vehicle parks will support gains, engine oils will be subject to downward pressure from lengthening drain intervals, and, as a result, will grow at a below average pace.
The strongest growth will be for process oils, which are less impacted by increasing lubricant efficiency than are other types of products. Hydraulic fluids will also see above average growth, supported by their use in manufacturing and other markets. Like hydraulic fluids, other products such as general industrial oils, gear oils, and greases are widely used in a variety of applications and will benefit from ongoing industrialization worldwide.
Motor Vehicle Aftermarket
Also growing is the motor vehicle aftermarket which will continue to account for the largest share of lubricant consumption globally.
Demand for products such as engine oils and transmission fluids will increase quickly in many developing countries where rising incomes will support rapid growth in the number of cars and trucks in use. However, advances in vehicle technology and lubricant quality, as well as growing acceptance of high performance synthetic oils, will allow for drain intervals to lengthen in all regions.
While these effects will not prevent strong growth in countries such as China and India, they will result in ongoing declines in developed economies with saturated vehicle markets such as the United States, Japan, and Western Europe.
Manufacturing Market to Post Healthy Gains
Lubricants used in the manufacturing market will expand more rapidly than motor vehicles, driven by rising manufacturing output in developing countries.
Asia, Eastern Europe, South America, and Africa/Mideast will benefit from the continued shift of global manufacturing activity to these regions. This trend will drive healthy growth in manufacturing lubricant demand; however, as is the case for motor vehicle lubricants, improving lubricant efficiency will restrain even stronger gains.
Other markets, including agriculture, construction, and non-motor vehicle transportation, will in aggregate outpace motor vehicle and manufacturing markets through 2017. Healthy economic growth, investment in infrastructure and other construction, and the increasing mechanization in developing countries will result in strong performance in these markets.