Worldwide grease usage patterns are not static, nor is the technology of product development to meet changing, and increasingly stringent, application and environmental requirements. These influences and trends can be expected to intensify in the foreseeable future. The result is an increasing use of higher quality, higher priced products and a corresponding reduction in the use of lower price/performance greases.
Central and Eastern Europe account for the majority of worldwide grease usage, followed by Asia/Pacific, North America, Western Europe, Central and South America, Africa and the Mid-East.
A significant difference in the types of products used exists between the major user regions. Western Europe and North America typically require higher quality products than do Central and Eastern European users, Africa uses specialized products (such as greases for mining equipment), and the use of polyurea products predominates in Asia.
Throughout the world, industrial applications account for most of the grease used. Of this, general manufacturing, steel production and mining predominate. Among automotive applications, trucks and buses account for the majority of grease used, followed by agricultural/construction equipment and passenger cars.
The following information on grease usage according to type or quality is derived from data on grease usage in North America and Western Europe. Although the use of minimum price/performance – commodity – greases predominates, the total value of these products is less than half of the value of all greases used.
Commodity greases, usually based on lithium, calcium or sodium soaps (and including some EP and lithium complex products) are general-purpose, low-cost products generally produced in large volumes.
Specialty greases, designed to meet demanding performance specifications and containing expensive additives or solid lubricants, are used in relatively small quantities, but they account for as much value usage as moderately priced, high-specification greases.
High-specification greases, often based on a complex soap, are frequently manufactured with highly refined or synthetic base oils for more demanding applications than can be met with commodity grease products.
In North America and Western Europe, the use of commodity greases is declining by about 5% per year, whereas the use of both high-specification and specialty products is increasing by about 5% per year. Almost half of the greases used in North America and Western Europe are lithium-thickened products, and about one-fifth are lithium complex products. In the United States, mineral-oil based products account for the vast majority of greases consumed.
Several long-term user requirements are affecting and changing the types and characteristics of greases used throughout the world. These include:
·Greater environmental acceptability
oExtreme pressure performance
·Improved compatibility with seals, bearing housings and soft metals
·Global product acceptance