AFPM Base Oils & Waxes ’17: Spotlight on a growing part of the industry

SAN ANTONIO -- For the first time, the International Bases Oils & Waxes (BOW) Conference was held in parallel with another AFPM conference. The International Petrochemical Conference (IPC) was chosen, presumably because of the increasing amount of synthetically-based lubricants and waxes. The AFPM organizers were pleased at having a wider attendance, some of the presenters wondered if having it as part of the AFPM annual meeting would be even better in future.

The technical program was a single track on waxes the first afternoon, followed by a second track on base oils the second morning.

Any Claxton, of My Energy, spoke on “Understanding Wax Pricing Mechanisms – A Model for Understanding the Drivers Involved in Wax Valuation.” Although framed as a pricing presentation, the technical content did much to explain where, in the product mix, synthetically-derived waxes fit best. Such waxes are created from syngas via Fischer-Tropsch reactions, or shorter-chain polyethylene or polypropylene waxes. The consistent behavior of synthetic waxes make them ideal for applications requiring consistent rheologic behavior such as hot melt adhesives. Their hardness makes them less useful in cosmetic or some candle wax applications.

Blake Eskew, of IHS Global, spoke on “Emerging Trends in Mobility: Impacts on Lubricants and Base Oils.” This forward-looking overview of changes to hybrids, electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles focused on reduction in lubricant use, and the importance of initial fill lubricant selection to enable more miles between oil changes. One prediction, driven by the explosive growth in “ride-hailing” and fleet vehicle use of hybrids or EVs is the rider having no involvement in the vehicle maintenance: it is the fleet company that purchases a vehicle that wants to maximize reliability, minimize shop-time. The quantity differences are significant. Drive-train lubricants (engine and transmission) are 33 gallons over a decade for a Ford F-150, around 12-15 gallons for a mid-size car, conventional or hybrid. For an electric car, there is just the initial one gallon fill.

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