Published April 2010
In 2004, ExxonMobil (XOM) Chemical Company (Houston, Texas, USA) began introducing a family of ultra high viscosity index poly alpha olefin (UHVI PAO) grades, designed to be used as fully synthetic blend stocks for high severity lubricating oil applications. Industry terminology (ref 1) segments PAO grades by kinematic viscosity (at 100°C) as follows:
Low Viscosity PAO
Medium Viscosity PAO
High Viscosity PAO
Ultra High Viscosity PAO
ExxonMobil and Ineos are the dominant PAO producers across all grades, with approximately 35% market share each on nearly 500 kty of global PAO capacity. ExxonMobil owns the dominant PAO trademark with its Mobil-1™ formulated brand of fully synthetic automotive and industrial lubricants based on PAO. The only other producer of competing material is Mitsui, whose product is a co-oligomer of LAO and ethylene (Lucant™) at viscosities ranging between 600–1000 cSt. Global UHVI PAO plus Mitsui Lucant™ production capacity is on the order of 4 kty, 75% of which belongs to ExxonMobil. Other producers of conventional and high viscosity index PAO are Chemtura, Neste, Idemitsu, Chevron-Phillips, Shenyang, Nizhnekamskneftekhim and Ineos.
SRIC believes that UHVI PAO is produced commercially in a batch reaction scheme, using reduced chromium oxide catalyst on silica at long (2 hour) residence time, at modest temperature (50–160°C) and pressure (50–140 psia) reactor conditions. The primary feedstock is decene-1 linear alpha olefin, although a range of LAO between C8–C14 carbon numbers can be blended to customize UHVI PAO physical and performance properties.
Our analysis shows that (as of 2010 market pricing conditions), a grass roots, stand alone UHVI PAO plant with a nameplate design capacity of 5,000 metric tons per year can be built on the US Gulf Coast with a total fixed capital cost of approximately 10 MM $US. When operating at full capacity, the estimated total manufacturing cost is approximately $US 2500/mt, providing an acceptable rate of return at prevailing bulk sales prices.