Lubricants are Everywhere
To say lubricants are widely used around the world is an understatement. They’re essential for so many domestic and industrial applications, that the modern world depends on them.
They’re used in a vast number of domestic applications as well as throughout almost the whole spectrum of industries.
There are the obvious, everyday applications that most people think of straight away. These include things like doors and hinges, bicycles, cars, trucks and trains. But the use of lubricants extends massively, from domestic appliances to food manufacturing, agriculture, automotive and industrial machinery lubricants, not to mention a whole plethora of specialist applications.
The primary purpose of lubricants is to reduce the friction, heat, and wear between moving parts and surfaces that are in contact with each other.
Lubrication is a crucial element in the efficiency, effectiveness and life-expectancy of most vehicles machines and mechanical equipment.
Most Common and Well-Known Lubricant
One of the most common and well-known lubricants that you’ve probably come across is car lubricants.
Motor oil, engine oil, or engine lubricant is a type of lubricant specifically used in cars, motorised vehicles, and types of machinery to help components move.
Found in an internal combustion engine, motor oil is also used to ensure the smooth, safe running and longevity of motor vehicles.
As well as motor oil, other key industrial and automotive lubricants include gearbox oil, hydraulic oils, lubricants for railways, and so on.
Many of these lubricants are “pigged” during their production process using an HPS product recovery (“pigging”) system.
Motor Oil – Base Stock and Additives
Lubricating oils such as motor oil are typically made up of two main elements – base stock and additives.
The base stock makes up most of the solution (typically 75 to 95 per cent) and usually comes from either petroleum, synthetic chemicals, or a mixture of both. The primary role of the base stock is for providing lubrication of the engine’s moving parts and removing built-up heat.
The rest of the solution is made up by the additives. Their role is to control how thick and smooth the liquid is as well as protecting engines parts from corrosion and wear.
The Challenge of Covid-19 on the Lubricant Oil Market
Lubricant oil manufacturers are heavily reliant on the supply and delivery of base stock, additives as well as chemicals which are fundamental to the development of lubricants.
Unfortunately, due to the disruption associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, shortages in the supply of these raw materials, has quickly become a major issue worldwide. This, in turn, has resulted in an increase in the price of motor oils, greases, hydraulic fluids and other lubricants.
According to Lubes ‘n’ Greases, base oil supply has been a major problem throughout the world and especially Europe and the Middle East. Supply was severely constrained at the end of 2020 and throughout the first half of 2021.
It’s only recently that supply has started to finally catch up with demand following the disruption of the global pandemic.
Base Oil Shortage
So, why exactly has base oil been in such short supply in 2021?
The main reason being that base oils (both mineral and synthetic) are created as a by-product of crude oil refining.
During this process, crude oil is taken from the ground and distilled into different grades to create fuel (petrol and diesel) with other grade products used for kerosene, heating oils, jet fuel, hydrocarbon products, lubricant based stock oils and so on.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s been less demand for transportation, both commercially and personal. This, in turn, has reduced the demand for fuel.
As well as cars, lorries and other vehicles, there’s also been fewer planes flying. So, there’s been significantly less requirement for jet fuel, which as an industry, is a huge user.
Due to the decrease in demand, refineries scaled back their production of base oil production. However, now that economies are reopening, and the demand for goods and services is rebounding, there’s an increasing demand for fuel and not enough production to meet demand. So, this shortage has led to a surge in global lubricant costs.
Other Trends Affecting the Lubricant Market Throughout 2021
As well as the demand for fuel falling, there are several additional market forces which are influencing the price and availability of base stock, additivities, chemicals and other key raw materials.
•Base oil prices have been driven higher by the rebound in the crude oil market and tightening supplies.
•Cargo capacity, especially in aviation has become extremely restricted. Before the pandemic, cargo was sometimes carried on passenger flights. However, cargo is now being partially transported on ships. This has resulted in freight rates surging. What’s more, ships are struggling to accommodate this extra capacity, which is causing further problems. There’s also been a surge in demand for products originating from China, which has further tightened freight capacity. This has resulted in prices from the Shanghai Shipping Index for container cargo almost tripling. And that’s not the end of it as prices of shipping containers are on course to keep rising for the rest of the year amid the strong global trade demand.
•Due to lockdowns during 2020 and 2021 in many parts of the world, the number of staff working at lubricant production plants decreased. This resulted in bottlenecks in production as well as increased cost
•Increasing costs for additivities, packaging and other inputs which have all contributed to the price hikes in the lubricants market.
How Lubricant Manufacturers Can Offset These Increasing Costs and Increase Their Profits
To overcome these price hikes, many lubricant oil manufacturers have focused their efforts on implementing cost reduction strategies that significantly boost the bottom line and improve their profits.
Hygienic and sanitary process pigging is a technology that is being increasingly adopted by lubricant oil manufacturers. And its use is increasing.
From Exol and Rock Oil to Tetrosyl and Fuchs lubricants, the benefits of pigging systems for lubricant processing and production are significant.
How Pigging Systems are Benefiting Manufacturers of Lubricants
Pigging systems use a specialist projectile (the ‘pig’) to reclaim residual liquid remaining in the pipeline. Other key components of a pigging system include pig launchers, receivers, detectors, storage, housings, propellant sources, PLCs, HMI’s, control software, and various valves, supports and fittings.
The pig has a diameter slightly larger than the pipeline or tubing that is transporting the liquid. The pigging process works by introducing the pig into the pipeline and pushing it through the pipe (nearly always automatically).
After the pipeline has been pigged, liquid is then collected or continues being processed.
Importantly, because pigging systems recover nearly all the product from the pipe, it’s an incredibly effective way to increase yields and reduce waste.
In fact, a lubricant manufacturer based in the UK recently implemented an HPS pigging system, and they are expected to recover just under £7,000,000 over a ten-year period, with payback in just under a year. So, the savings and ROI from pigging is significant.
Reducing Cross-Contamination Risks with an HPS Pigging System
Because pigging systems have high recovery rates, the chances of product contamination and cross-contamination are greatly reduced.
In many lubricant blending plants, large quantities of lubricant often remain in the pipeline at the end of a specific batch transfer. Without a pigging process, this would be subjected to cross-contamination with the next batch.
Cross-contamination is extremely costly for lubricant manufacturers, where in many cases, the cross-contaminated lubricant blends would require re-work, resulting in significant quantities of oil being downgraded. This, in turn, would result in high production costs, lost sales revenue, and negatively impact the bottom line.
However, with a pigging system, lubricant oil manufacturers can safely eliminate cross-contamination and ensure batch segregation.
Due to the high recovery efficiency of the HPS pipeline pig, nearly all the product is removed from the line. Not only does this minimise product losses and reduce the chances of cross-contamination, but it keeps lubricant re-work costs to a minimal, and maintains product integrity and value.
Achieving Production Flexibility by Pigging
Many lubricant manufacturers often produce a wide range of different lubricants and oils in their production plants. Therefore, they are required to achieve a high degree of flexibility to cope with the frequent changeovers and production volume changes.
With a pigging process, lubricant manufacturers can use the same line for transferring different configurations and formulations of lubricant blends. This increases the flexibility and capacity of lubricant processing and production.
Production downtime for changeovers and cleaning will be minimal. The line will still need to be cleaned and reconfigured between batches; however, this can be done as efficiently, economically and productively as possible with a pigging system.
In some applications, because the pig recovers so much product residue from the line, it is often possible to process the next product instantly after pigging.
Improving the Efficiency and Profitability of the Lubricant Production Process
HPS pigging systems also enable lubricant manufacturers to become more efficient in their manufacturing process.
This is through cutting waste, minimising production downtime, speeding up processing and cleaning, lowering water and energy usage and reducing carbon emissions.
What’s more, if lubricant oil manufacturers choose an HPS custom pigging system, their savings from pigging will pay back the initial cost of the system extremely quickly. So, not only will pigging improve the efficiency of their operations, but it will also improve profits, enhance competitiveness and significantly boost the bottom line.
As an example, HPS recently implemented a pigging solution for a manufacturer of automotive lubricant oils. With an HPS pigging system, they are expected to recover an annual sales revenue of just under £600,000, with a project payback in less than 5 months.
Find Out More
HPS Product Recovery Solutions has implemented thousands of pigging systems throughout the world.
Our world-leading, proven solutions are helping lubricant oil manufacturers such as Rock Oil and Tetrosyl to recover significant amounts of usable product, reduce cross-contamination risks, speed up processing and improve production flexibility.
If you work for a company that manufacturers lubricants or just about any other liquid or wet product and would like to speak to one of our experts about improving your processes through hygienic and sanitary pigging and liquid product recovery solutions, then please get in touch.