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Evolving Lubricants
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Evolving Lubricants

July 1, 2023 11:36 am

The oil and lubricant industry is substantially transforming in response to evolving consumer preferences, technological advancements, and increasing environmental concerns. The demand for environmentally friendly and sustainable solutions is driving this shift.

Lubricating oil has been a highly profitable sector within the oil and gas industry. However, the rise of electric vehicles in transportation is expected to bring about disruptive changes. One notable transformation in the automotive market is the growing demand for eco-friendly and sustainable options. To comply with eco-friendly regulations, the lubricant industry is changing its approach, transitioning from mineral-based oils to biodegradable alternatives.

Consumers seek vehicles that offer fuel efficiency, lower emissions, and reduced environmental impact as environmental consciousness grows. The impact of eco-friendly standards on the lubricant industry is of utmost importance. A key aspect of this changing landscape involves the development of greener formulations. There is a noticeable trend towards using biodegradable base oils, renewable resources, and additives free from toxic or harmful substances. These advancements enhance lubricants’ performance and minimise their environmental impact throughout their life cycle.

Eco-friendly lubricants

 Adopting environmentally friendly standards has brought about a fundamental shift in lubricant formulation, production, and usage. Lubricants derived from hydrocarbons have been found to have detrimental effects on the environment, leading to soil and groundwater contamination and accumulation of these substances in plants and animals. This has created a growing recognition of the importance of ‘Environmental, Social, and Governance principles for sustainable growth. Jayanta Ray, GM Industrial and OEM of GS Caltex India emphasises that climate change has resulted in global environmental challenges, prompting countries and businesses to collaborate in addressing these issues.

Hitendra Bhargava, CEO and Regional Management Board Member Asia-Pacific of Klüber Lubrication, highlights the increasing demand for sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions across various industries as natural resource depletion rises. Supporting this perspective, Dattatray Dhende, Managing Director of Sunlub Technologies, states that the lubricant industry is transforming to comply with eco-friendly regulations by shifting from mineral-based oils to biodegradable alternatives. These environmentally conscious lubricants, often derived from synthetic esters, have proven effective. Vegetable oils were previously widely used for lubrication until synthetic lubricants were developed.

Like other sectors, the lubricant industry has been compelled to reassess its practices and develop products that align with these regulations. Hitendra emphasises that a significant aspect of this changing landscape is the development of greener formulations. There is a clear trend towards using biodegradable base oils, renewable resources, and additives free from toxic or harmful substances.

Impact of EVs

 The electric vehicle industry’s rapid growth has significantly impacted the demand for environmentally friendly lubricants. As highlighted by Jayanta, the surge in EV adoption can be attributed to changing consumer behaviour, as well as strong government policies and investments from the private sector. This expansion has led to an increased need for eco-friendly lubricants. Dattatray envisions that water-based variants will play a significant role in meeting this demand. These lubricants, with their naturally low viscosity and cooling capabilities, are well-suited for applications in electric vehicles and emerging green technologies.

EVs have specific operational requirements that differ from those of internal combustion engines, necessitating specialised lubricants. These lubricants are formulated to meet the unique needs of electric drivetrains, including electric motors, transmissions, and battery systems. Their formulations are tailored to minimise friction, maximise energy efficiency, and enhance overall EV performance. In parallel, advancements in technology and automation drive the machine tool industry towards advanced lubricants that offer improved performance, extended maintenance intervals, and prolonged equipment lifespan.

Lubricants in the automotive and machine tool industries

Lubricants are crucial in ensuring optimal performance, efficiency, and longevity in the automotive industry. As the automotive sector continues progressing with the emergence of electric vehicles, hybrid technologies, and autonomous driving systems, there is a growing demand for specialised lubricants, as noted by Hitendra. These lubricants are specifically designed to meet the unique requirements of modern engines, transmissions, and drivetrains, providing superior protection, reduced friction, and enhanced fuel efficiency.

The lubricant market is projected to experience substantial growth, primarily driven by the increased adoption of higher-profit branded or advanced products, particularly synthetic lubricants. This growth will be fueled by rising demand in industries such as processing and automotive parts that heavily rely on lubrication, especially in the forging sector.

In the machine tool industry, lubricants are essential for the efficient and reliable operation of machinery. As the manufacturing, construction, and aerospace industries expand, there is a growing demand for machine tools and equipment. Consequently, this drives the need for lubricants capable of withstanding high temperatures, heavy loads, and challenging operating conditions. Additionally, there is an increasing demand for speciality lubricants tailored to specific machine tools applications, such as cutting fluids and metalworking lubricants.

Achieving the goal of becoming the world’s third-largest automobile industry is an ambitious objective for India. This requires a multifaceted approach involving collaboration between industry stakeholders, policymakers, and businesses. A report suggests that India is projected to solidify its position as the third-largest automotive market worldwide, with a sales figure of 7.4 million vehicles. Therefore, India must prioritise expanding production capacity and infrastructure enhancement to support this growth.

Shifting demands and innovations

The demand for automotive lubricants is experiencing a profound transformation in a rapidly changing automotive landscape. Customers now expect lubricants that enhance engine fuel efficiency and deliver superior overall performance. This shift in consumer expectations has prompted lubricant manufacturers to develop products that cater to the evolving needs of the automobile market, including compatibility with alternative fuels and electric vehicles. To meet these demands, the industry has embraced technological advancements and leveraged digitalisation and data-driven insights.

Manufacturers are harnessing the power of technology to create lubricants tailored to specific vehicle models and operating conditions. By utilising digitalisation and data analysis, they can optimise their formulations and ensure optimal performance and longevity for various engines. This approach allows lubricant manufacturers to stay ahead of the curve, offering higher-performing products that align with customer expectations.

Recognising the importance of sustainability and reducing carbon footprints, industry leaders emphasise the need for investment in research and development. Hitendra highlights the significance of fostering innovation and creating an environment that promotes R&D in the automobile sector. To support this, the focus should be on skill development and training programs to equip the workforce with the necessary expertise.

In conclusion, with its vast talent pool, India has the potential to drive growth in the automobile industry. By nurturing a skilled workforce and fostering innovation, the country can position itself as a key player in the global lubricant market. However, a stable and conducive policy framework is essential to provide a supportive environment for industry players and facilitate their contributions to the sector’s growth.

While the transportation sector’s fuel consumption contributes significantly to carbon emissions, lubricants have the potential to mitigate this impact by reducing fuel consumption, envisages Jayanta. The demand for industrial lubricants is projected to grow, driven by the construction, mining, infrastructure, and manufacturing sectors. These segments hold immense potential to propel the Indian lubricants industry forward, emphasising the need for sustainable and high-performing lubricants.

As the automotive industry continues to evolve, the lubricant business is poised for a dynamic future. Adapting to changing customer expectations and leveraging technological advancements, lubricant manufacturers are at the forefront of driving innovation in pursuing enhanced performance, sustainability, and a greener future.

Hitendra Bhargava, CEO and Regional Management Board Member Asia-Pacific, Klüber Lubrication. 
“Government support and investment in research and development encourage the indigenous development of electric vehicles, hybrid technologies, and autonomous driving systems.”

Dattatray Dhende, Managing Director, Sunlub Technologies.
“The growth in the automotive and industrial sectors will drive the demand for synthetic lubricants, including the forging sector, in the upcoming years.”

Jayanta Ray, GM Industrial and OEM, GS Caltex India Pvt. Ltd.
“While the fuels used in the transportation sector contribute significantly to carbon emissions, lubricants can potentially decrease fuel consumption.”

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