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Clear definition of sustainability required for Asian lubricants industry

Hybrid car

The meaning of sustainability goes beyond clean energy, clean air and a stabilised climate. The challenge of carbon dioxide must be balanced with sustainable economic value, says Eric Holthusen, chief technology officer at Petronas Lubricants International.

Holthusen was speaking during the 2022 ALIA Annual Meeting at the Siam Anantara Bangkok Hotel in Thailand on 26 April on โ€œThe Future of a Sustainable Lubricants Business in Asiaโ€. During his keynote address, the Petronas executive emphasised the need for clearer definitions of sustainability so marketing claims are transparent to customers and for standardisation to enable greater industry alignment. There is an opportunity for the Asian Lubricants Industry Association (ALIA) to support the sector as we undergo this transformation, he says.

In his presentation, Holthusen highlighted the impacts of electric mobility and the increasing digitalisation of work on lubricants. Predicted car ownership growth in Asia will continue to be satisfied by cars with internal combustion engines, predominantly operated as an element in a hybrid powertrain that will still require a considerable volume of lubricants, he says. Holthusen indicated that hybrid driving with higher engine efficiencies and a longer service cycle will promote increased use of synthetic lubricants โ€“ and the base oil industry needs to adapt accordingly.  

Digital technology and connectivity to the Internet of Things (IOT) will enable increasing smart maintenance opportunities for fluid-related products and greater service differentiation. Holthusen expects this trend to increase the demand for high-quality base oils in the industrial sector.

Fluids are becoming more sustainable. Holthusen noted an increasing prevalence of recycled base oils with higher quality standards, with some achieving Group III specifications. These will become increasingly important for the future of the industry, however, there is a need for more research and development in this area, he says. Holthusen also cited a need for campaigns to help recycled oils lose the stigma of cheap low-quality fluids.