US Circular Economy for Lubricants Growth Opportunities
The United States accounts for more than 20% of all lubricants consumed globally. It has one of the highest per capita consumption rates of 7.6 gallons per year. Key factors such as high automobile use or ownership and a huge variety of industries contribute to the demand for lubricants. In 2020, total demand for lubricants in the United States reached 2.09 billion gallons, of which about 1.17 billion gallons of used oil were generated while the rest was lost in use. Currently, the used oil collected is an estimated 72% of the used oil generated by automotive and industrial users of lubricants.
A push for decarbonization and smaller carbon footprints is driving the move toward a circular economy for the lubricants industry. Achieving these sustainability goals requires less dependence on both imported fuel and on highly polluting fossil fuel extraction. In the last decade, collection of used oil has grown significantly in the United States, primarily driven by stringent enforcement of policies by individual states and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), including the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) that regulates the management of hazardous and non-hazardous waste. Current estimates from the US Department of Energy (DOE) indicate that 30% of the used oil collected is re-refined as base oil, which is then made into a variety of lubricants.
Lubricants manufactured from re-refined base oil were previously considered inferior to lubricants made from virgin crude oil. However, an increase in awareness, advancements in used oil re-refining technology, and the economical and environmental sustainability benefits of re-refined base oil based lubricants in the last 10 years have caused a steady rise in their acceptance and adoption.
The United States is the leading consumer and exporter of API-Group II base oil, but it imports 80% of its Group III base oils. Group II, the most commonly used base oils, serves a wide variety of automotive and industrial lubricants. High-performing, high-stability products with improved wear resistance require Group III base oils, which are equated to semi-synthetic lubricants. Evolving standards aimed at reducing emissions and increasing demand for high-performance lubricants have sparked demand for Group III base oils in the United States. Currently, only one US used oil re-refiner has the capability to produce re-refined Group III base oils. New market entrants are investing in advanced technologies to produce Group III base oil from used oil.
Frost & Sullivan estimates that the US circular economy for lubricants will increase at a CAGR of 8% in the next 5 years. Tier I re-refiners hold more than 80% of the re-refined base oil production market share. The demand for recycled fuel oil is set to decrease in the next 5 years whereas re-refined base oil production will increase. The market is witnessing consolidation by Tier I players who are leveraging their dominant positions to improve collection efficiency and increase re-refined base oil production, which has high market value.
KEY ISSUES ADDRESSED
What is the current market situation and what is its forecasted growth rate?
What factors are influencing growth of the circular economy for lubricants and to what extent will they have an impact?
What are the key growth opportunities?
What are the innovative technologies currently disrupting the market?
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