Lubricant demand from wind energy industry to increase by 7.4%

Lubricant demand from wind energy industry to increase by 7.4%
Photo courtesy of Philip May.

The overall demand for lubricants used in the wind energy industry will increase from 37.6 kilotonnes in 2015 to 53.7 kilotonnes by 2020, reflecting a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.4%, according to a recent report from N.J., U.S.A.-based consulting firm Kline & Co.

Kline said lubricant demand growth in this market segment will be influenced primarily by three factors: growth in wind energy capacity, the penetration of direct drive machines and drain interval extensions.

The main lubricants used in a wind turbine include gear oils, greases and hydraulic fluids.

The split of lubricant consumption by region tracks the division of global installed capacity. China is the largest market for lubricants used in wind energy, accounting for 34% of total demand, followed closely by the United States with 21%. Germany and India account for an approximate share of 6% each. However, Germany’s demand is slightly more than that of India.

“Wind energy is rapidly gaining significance as a source of electricity due to its environmental friendly nature. Electricity produced from wind energy does not use any non-renewable resource and does not produce carbon emissions. Furthermore, governments around the world have supported the wind energy industry through tax holidays, mandatory usage requirements, pricing support and subsidies, said Sushmita Dutta, a project lead in Kline’s Energy Practice. “Driven by this support, wind energy capacity has grown rapidly, increasing at a CAGR of 24% since 2000,” said Dutta.

“Furthermore, the need to reduce gear box failures and increase reliability under extreme operating conditions while extending drain intervals has contributed towards increased usage of synthetic lubricants,” Dutta said.

The wind energy industry is unique in that it has a very high share, exceeding 80%, of synthetics in overall demand in all regional markets. As the wind energy industry is risk averse, the fear of gear box failure and the need to maintain long drain intervals to control costs make synthetic products attractive.”

“The use of biodegradable fluids is practically nonexistent. The service conditions in a wind turbine are too severe and biodegradable oils tend to breakdown to release acids, which attack the bearings and other copper parts. In the future, biodegradable oils may carve out a niche in the offshore market if their service life could be increased,” Dutta said.

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