The key role of a lubricant is to reduce the friction between the two surfaces. Lubricants are attracting public awareness in recent times owing to the central environmental matters such as cutting emission and saving energy. According to a research, 0.4 % of the gross domestic product can be easily saved for energy purposes in Western industrialized countries if proper knowledge related to lubrication, friction and wear, was applied to lubricated processes.
Lubricants are segmented into two major groups such as industrial lubricants and automotive lubricants. Industrial lubricants are further broken down into industrial oils and industrial lubricants. Specialties include metal working lubricants, solid lubricant films and greases.
A rapid increase in lubricants produced from recycled base oils in East African market has been noticed. Lubricants are either imported as base oil or finished lubricants which are then blended locally. Lubricants produced from recycled base oil are comparatively cheaper than the products manufactured from virgin base oils.
Base oils are major constituents of finished lubricants occupying large share of the finished product. Remaining share is occupied by chemical additives which are added to enhance the performance. These additives are added on the recommendation of the manufacturer to meet the specifications set by American Petroleum Institute (API).
Kenya bureau of standards provided their views on the influx of substandard lubricants by setting the minimum specifications for lubricants, further this initiative was then taken by different East African authorities of quality standards.
However, through such type of initiative, these specifications laid down are obsolete as per product market. The standards set by East African lubricant market are quite low as compared to the other markets. According to the standards, they are supposed to provide a minimum drain interval of some thousands of kilometers. In case drain intervals extends, life of the equipment are sharply reduced due to high engine wear.
For a lubricant to adhere to any standard, the additive producer must develop the additives which are then blended into a lubricant which is then tested into various engines. Generally, these products are then manufactured from virgin base oils so that they adhere to the specification. Product developed through re-cycled base oil does not qualify for any international standards.
In African region majority of the lubricant demand arises from countries such as Algeria, South Africa and Nigeria. South African lubricant industry includes lubricant blending and base oil refining and the marketing of finished products. The lubricants industry in South Africa is one of the largest of its kind and plays a vital role in South Africa. It is supported through the chemicals industries of South Africa which has the capacity to offer domestic production of bulk additives. Lubricant industry has played a key important role to meet the demand of automotive market and industrial sector. In general, the demand through mining industry, agricultural sector and manufacturing sector has ensured a healthy growth of the lubricants industry. The lubricants industry of South Africa is highly competitive and is subjected to the government control pertaining to fuels such as diesel and gasoline.
Lubricants are sold through fuels marketing companies along with wide range of smaller companies. South African lubricant market is one of the strongest lubricant markets in Africa, with South Africa meeting majority of the lubricant demands from neighboring countries.
Some of the key companies in the business of finished lubricants in Africa market are BP Plc, Chevron Corporation, Engen Petroleum Ltd. and Royal Dutch Shell Plc among others.