Fuelling Innovation
Lubricants hold a critical role within the construction sector, providing essential support to equipment operating under harsh conditions. These machines contend with demanding challenges, ranging from heavy loads and extreme temperatures to wear and tear, as well as exposure to contaminants like dirt and water. To ensure optimal safeguarding, it is imperative to offer the highest level of protection.

The market for commercial automotive lubricants experienced a decline in 2013 due to sluggish economic growth, which consequently impacted sectors like logistics, construction, mining, and agriculture. Notably, more than half of India's commercial automotive lubricant market is under the control of nationalised oil companies. In India, the industrial lubricant sector dominates, accounting for over 54 percent of the total market share. Key industries such as power generation, chemicals, automotive manufacturing, railways, marine, and metals constitute nearly 80 percent of the industrial lubricant consumption.

The nation’s expansion in construction, mining, and material handling equipment industries has gained momentum, presenting a growing trajectory that is expected to generate fresh prospects for the industrial lubricant sector. Heavy machinery and equipment are increasingly seeking lubricants that provide fuel economy benefits, aiming to amplify potential savings through efficient equipment lubrication. These specialized demands include low viscosity, high durability, and extended oil drain intervals. Leading lubricant companies like Gulf Oil, ExxonMobil, and Shell are poised to cater to these requisites.

As per the GfK Automotive Engine Oil Retail Census Study conducted across 94 cities with populations exceeding 500,000, the annual lubricant market in India is estimated at 130 million litres. This volume corresponds to sales from approximately 93,000 auto retail outlets across the nation. With larger cities hosting a substantial vehicle population, nearly 80 percent of the projected market is concentrated in tier 1 cities with populations exceeding one million.

A spokesperson from Shell Lubricants India remarked, "The Indian lubricant market is demonstrating steady growth driven by escalating demand for industrial equipment. The recent years have witnessed a surge in construction, manufacturing, and mining activities, all of which intensify the requirement for high-performance industrial lubricants. These lubricants are essential to ensure the efficient and productive functioning of heavy machinery operating in these sectors, often under arduous conditions such as mining."

The spokesperson from Shell further elaborated, “Industries are embracing technological advancements and solutions for equipment maintenance, and Shell, leveraging its profound industry knowledge, expertise, and operational resources, stands at the forefront. Our proficiency lies in formulating top-tier lubricants using cutting-edge technology, delivering the desired outcomes to customers while aligning with industry demands.”

In collaboration with Komatsu, Shell Lubricants launched an innovative lubricant, the Komatsu Genuine Oil 15W-40. This specially formulated lubricant meets the stringent requirements of API CI-4 DH1, a distinctive blend that emerged from the collaboration between the two companies. The Komatsu Genuine Oil 15W-40 satisfies the API CI-4 DH1 standards along with an array of industry and OEM specifications. Its benefits include enhanced high-temperature performance, reduced deposits, and the promotion of cleaner engines.

Given that construction operations often necessitate frequent shifts from one location to another, maintenance teams might not always be within close reach. The potential breakdown of machinery can lead to prolonged unplanned downtime and unanticipated costs, scenarios that all equipment operators strive to avoid.

Recently, Schwing Stetter entered into a strategic partnership with Gulf Oil for its construction equipment needs. The company says the demand for high-quality, synthetic industrial lubricants and oils will witness growth and Gulf Oil is strategically positioned to cater to the growing market consumption in the construction segment.

The partnership will bring to the market a range of products that include high technology and high-quality lubricants including – premium hydraulic oil, engine oil, axle oil, gear oil & high-end synthetic gear oil for their concrete pump, batching plant, concrete mixture and self-loading mixer. It will cater to the distinct and technologically progressive needs of the Construction Equipment sector for Schwing Stetter all-India aftermarket requirement. These genuine oils will be distributed by Schwing Stetter exclusively through its own outlets positioned at various locations across the country.

The widest aera of innovation today is in the adoption of digitalisation, and Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML). Data interpretation has proven to be challenging – largely due to the lack of real-time monitoring, inaccuracy in measurement, and absence of precise predictive analytics that prevent the optimisation of performance. By developing the technology to digitally monitor oil health and equipment performance, at Mobil, we are taking innovation further by integrating AI/ML and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to overcome the challenges of insufficient equipment effectiveness and downtime.

ExxonMobil Lubricants’ Mobil Serv Lubricant Analysis (MSLA) programme is combining services that supply reports, analyses, and solutions to help professionals make effective business decisions by limiting unscheduled downtime, equipment repair and lost productivity. Further, Mobil Serv IIoT Insights helps users understand the mechanics of their equipment and provides precise data, enabling them to direct manpower elsewhere – while automated machinery handles tasks such as alerting customers to potential problems before they arise and providing solutions to deal with them.

Further, the Mobil Serv Real Time, the next-generation oil condition monitoring tool, is enabling instant access to oil diagnostics and performance issues, preventing users from paying for costly repairs later. By making this kind of information accessible, Mobil is driving the optimisation of resources and protecting critical assets through technological advancement.

Recently, ExxonMobil said it is investing about Rs 900 crore to build a lubricant manufacturing plant at the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation’s Isambe Industrial Area in Raigad. The company signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of Maharashtra in the presence of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and senior officials from the state.  Once operational, the plant will have the capacity to potentially manufacture 159,000 kilolitres of finished lubricants annually to meet growing domestic demand from industrial sectors such as manufacturing, steel, power, mining, and construction, as well as from passenger and commercial vehicle segments. It is expected to begin operations by the end of 2025.

Mindful of the mining sector’s evolving need, Mobil™? has developed its Mobil Delvac Modern™? 15W-40 Super Fleet, a contemporary heavy-duty diesel engine oil intended to improve fleet performance. The Mobil Delvac Modern 15W-40 Super Fleet has emerged as a cutting-edge solution that transforms how mining fleet owners and operators maintain and improve the performance of their vehicles. It is a high-performance synthetic technology diesel engine oil that gives both on and off-highway diesel engines optimum lubrication. In comparison to API CI-4 PLUS requirements, the Mobil Delvac Modern 15W-40 Super Fleet provides up to 60 per cent* better wear protection, which helps save engine maintenance costs, and time and energy. It assures long working durations, and provides improved protection, efficiency, and extended oil drain intervals, enabling mining fleet operators to get the most out of their vehicles.

Ravi Chawla, Managing Director, Gulf Oil India, said, “The global lubricants market was valued at $125.81 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.7 per cent from 2021 to 2028. The Indian finished lubricants market is the third-largest and one of the fastest-growing lubricants markets in the world and with the growing trade of vehicles and their spare parts, it is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 4.77 per cent by 2027.

The automotive lubricant segment constitutes a large pie of the Indian lubricant market. It is projected that the automotive industry only will see growth at a CAGR of 3.9 per cent by 2027. According to the latest report by Moody’s, India is set to see the strongest growth in automotive sales in the coming years which will boost the demand for automotive lubricants. The demand for automotive lubricants has a direct correlation with on-road vehicle movement, as well as the growth of vehicle population and automobile sales.

Adds Chawla, “Gulf Oil recognised the importance of the infrastructure sector in a developing country like India and early on, we set up a dedicated team to cater to the needs of this sector. Today, 6-7 per cent of our sales volume comes from this segment. We offer customised products and services at more than 5,000 sites and to more than 1,000 customers who are building roads, highways, metros, and houses. Our customer focus and service-oriented approach have helped us grow the business in this sector year after year. However, the last year has been challenging for all of us due to the slow progress of projects and the slowdown in the overall market. Despite this, we are still gunning for growth.”

Satya Ranjan Mohapatra, Deputy General Manager (IB & IS), Tide Water Oil, said, “The Indian lube market is broadly divided into two parts – automotive and industrial. The industrial lubricant market is growing at a modest rate of 3.5 to 4 percent p.a. vis-à-vis other developed countries where there is stagnation in the lubricant market. In the industrial segment, the construction and mining industry contributes around 12 per cent to the total lubricants market. The construction and mining equipment industry is growing by more than 30 per cent as of September 22. The market potential of lubricants in the construction and mining segment is very high and we are looking forward to have a better share of business in the coming days.”

He added, “We are relatively new in offering our specialty lubricants for the construction and mining industry. We are surely strengthening our foothold in mining and construction lubricants.”

Tide Water Oil Co, the owner of the Veedol, brand across the globe is a world-class producer and marketer of high-quality lubricants. “We have served the Indian automotive and industrial markets since 1928. We have now spread our wings to more than 70 countries across the globe with the help of various subsidiaries and licensed manufacturing facilities,” said Mohapatra.

He added, “We are concentrating on BSVI engine oil and long-drain hydraulic oils for the infrastructure and mining segment. Our focus is also on high-performance greases and transmission oil. We are among the first and most experienced lube companies in India to offer complete lubricant solutions across all product categories to OEMs. The product that we are focusing on here at IMME is MARATRON LSP CK4 engine oil, which is most suitable for BSVI-compatible engines and also backward compatible. It can work up to 80,000 km drainage intervals.”

Minimac Systems offers customised solutions for high-velocity oil flushing, chemical cleaning, purification, and testing. The company was established with the goal of giving the market sustainable solutions. Oil is used by many industries, including mining, to power their equipment. They change the oil after a set number of operating hours because the oil's quality starts to degrade. Yogesh Kumar, Director – Technical Service, Minimac Systems, said, “Our business recovers the oil and restores it to fresh oil quality. The oil must be thrown away if it is not treated. Reclaimed oil will reduce pollution in the air, the soil, and the water.”

“Depending on the lubricant, how it is applied to the equipment, the environment, the equipment's age, etc., there are many types and features of contamination in lubricants. There are various methods to manage, separate, or get rid of the contamination. Over time, Minimac Systems has acquired practically all of the technology needed for lubricant contamination management,” said Kumar.

Minimac Systems provides both conventional and specialised products for the area of oil purifying systems. For a cost-effective solution to the issue of contamination in lubricating oils, product selection is done based on application of the requirement and the relevant technology.

“We offer a variety of options, and they differ depending on the industry. The majority of the carbon flakes from coal mining are found in the oil. For every application, we have solutions that are unique. All of the solutions are produced in India. Several parts, including silicon chips and other electronics, are imported. The remaining components are all produced on-site,” said Kumar.

Selecting the Appropriate Lubricant
The process of choosing the right lubricant holds immense significance as it plays a pivotal role in enhancing reliability, increasing productivity, and decreasing the occurrence of breakdowns. It's vital to take into account the influencing factors that determine the effectiveness of a lubricant for its intended purpose. In the context of engine oils, crucial aspects encompass the viscosity grade and performance characteristics.

Lubricants are accessible in various viscosity grades as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), which establish the temperature range within which they can perform optimally.

Especially for off-highway engines, meticulous control of aeration assumes heightened importance due to the potential of a greater-than-usual amount of air getting mixed with the oil. This situation holds particular risk for bearings since these components rely on an oil film for protection. The presence of entrapped air proves detrimental by disrupting boundary lubrication, that thin layer of oil safeguarding against direct metal-to-metal contact.

Road ahead
The Government of India has outlined a comprehensive plan to invest $1.4 trillion over the next decade in the realm of infrastructure. This sustained focus by the government on propelling India's infrastructure sector forward will undoubtedly serve as a driving force for the commercial vehicle industry. Alongside the heightened requirement for lubricants within the commercial vehicle domain, there will also be a notable rise in the demand for industrial lubricants. Various lubricant types such as gear oil, transmission fluid, metalworking fluid, and grease are all poised to experience a substantial surge in demand. As of 2020, the Indian industrial lubricant market held a value of $1.4 billion. Projections indicate that this market is set to expand even further, reaching a value of $1.8 billion by 2027. This growth is anticipated to transpire at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 3.8 percent during the forecast period spanning from 2021 to 2027.

Regulatory environment: The Indian lubricants industry was subject to various regulations and standards set by government bodies such as the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).
Raw material availability: The availability and cost of raw materials, including base oils and additives, can impact the profitability and pricing strategies of lubricant manufacturers.
Quality and counterfeiting: Maintaining consistent quality and ensuring that products meet industry standards was a concern.
Competition: The lubricants market in India was highly competitive, with numerous players ranging from multinational corporations to domestic manufacturers.
Price sensitivity: Indian consumers, both industrial and individual, were often price-sensitive.
Environmental concerns: Increasing environmental regulations and consumer awareness regarding the environmental impact of lubricants added pressure on manufacturers to develop more environmentally friendly products.
Distribution challenges: India's vast and diverse geography posed distribution challenges.
Technological advancements: Keeping up with technological advancements in lubricant formulations and application methods was essential for maintaining competitiveness and meeting changing consumer needs.
Skill development: Developing a skilled workforce for research, development, and production in the lubricants industry was a challenge.
Changing consumer preferences: As vehicles and machinery evolved, consumer preferences for specific lubricant properties also changed.