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26 February 2021
Max Fraser-Krauss By Max Fraser-Krauss

Base Oils: Maximising Performance Using Environmentally Conscious Alternatives.

Sustainability is becoming a priority for industry leaders throughout the chemicals space.

I recently wrote an article about “Embracing Sustainability in Specialty Chemicals”, highlighting the positive approach companies are making to create a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future.

When you think about the wider chemicals space, the first thing you think about is unlikely to be sustainability. However, companies throughout the industry have been working hard to change this – providing green alternatives within their product offerings.

An area that particularly stands out regarding sustainability is the production and processing of base oils. Base oils are a key component used when manufacturing both industrial and automotive lubricants.

With base oils being such a critical component in the chemicals industry and manufacturing processes, it’s hard to imagine a swift change in the way they are being used currently. So, the end goal is not to fully replace the chemicals space for environmental reasons, but instead to ensure it can be as sustainable as possible in the long term.

Recently, the chemicals industry has faced challenging times. Base oils have seen reduced numbers in terms of supply and capacity. In turn, this has created an opportunity for alternative, sustainable products which companies have begun to adopt more readily.

Towards the end of 2020 we saw major corporations, like Shell, plan to take substantial action with the closing a Group 1 base oil unit in Singapore announced for 2022 - following moves to cut back on fuel-based production. Higher operating costs and stricter performance demands from certain industries, such as the automotive industry, have also contributed to these dropping figures and overall demand.

This symbolises a gradual shift that’s happening across the industry, moving away from conventional methods. Here lies the window of opportunity for alternative methods, with more sustainable, greener options being made available.

New emission legislations are a driving force in creating a use for more sustainable base oils. There are companies that have actively taken steps to reduce environmental impacts and improve sustainability, while also ensuring customers continue to have the best solutions for their needs.

Companies such as Nynas produce viable alternatives to Group I base oils. Nynas offers a NYBASE range, consisting of blends of paraffinic Group II and hydrotreated naphthenic oils. The aim is to aid formulators in creating similar properties found from Group I oils, while displaying better low temperature characteristics, low aromatic content and significantly lower sulphur content.

These options help with the current shortage of Group 1 oils and eliminate the need for them during the refinery process. Nynas acts as a good example of displaying adaptability and flexibility to the market, while at the same time cutting down on the use of conventional methods that have a big impact on the environment.

Another company aiming to produce sustainable alternative products is Novvi. Novvi’s products are 100% renewable, made from sustainable plant oil and fat feedstocks. Having put policies and processes in place, Novvi are set at aiming towards sustainability through certified sources and certification standards.

Novvi products can resist temperature, wear and corrosion over time, ensuring their alternatives offer the highest possible performance. This offering is supporting the company in its mission to reduce environmental impact and ensure a just-as-good, if not better, substitute to conventional base oils.

Neste is also at the forefront of innovation when it comes to sustainability, offering high quality and environmentally conscious solutions. The company is the world’s largest producer of renewable diesel refined from waste and residues. Its NEXBASE base oils meet the needs of demanding industries, with the overall goal of improved environmental conditions.

Like Neste, Novvi and Nynas’ offerings, bio-based stocks – which are made from materials such as vegetable oils and fatty acids - also provide a greener solution. Biosynthetic Technologies is a specialist in this area.

The company converts these materials into high-performance petroleum replacements. Its products are bio-degradable and renewable but ensure such properties don’t have an impact on performance, compared to traditional methods. 

There is still a continued overall demand for the conventional methods of base stock over the emerging alternatives. However, the increasing demand for sustainability can’t be ignored and this will continue to be a major consideration for companies and manufacturers.

Sustainable options will continue to grow as legislation begins to crack down on environmental issues. Already, more and more companies are taking action to cut down their carbon footprint. I’m positive that the alternative methods I’ve mentioned in this article will present a much-needed option to do that.

These types of changes won’t happen overnight, but a global collaborative effort is being developed with the aim of achieving sustainability goals. It’s an exciting time to see more companies getting involved to help achieve a healthier planet.

If you have any feedback about this article or think I’ve missed anything, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please email me at max.fraser-krauss@charltonmorris.comPlease find more of my mining content on my consultant page.

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Max Fraser-Krauss

Max leads the Delivery Team which operates across different Industrial markets. He operates within the Water Industry, working closely with other Water & Clean-Tech team members. His ability to develop and manage relationships, both with candidates and clients, has enabled him to build teams for start-ups and blue-chip companies in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.


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