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Malaysia’s Emery Bullish on Biolubes

August 11, 2015 – (Interview: Lube Report Asia) – Malaysia’s Emery Oleochemicals plans to expand its biolubricant business globally with partnerships, acquisitions and expansion of existing sites in Malaysia and Germany, the company told Lube Report Asia recently.

“One of the opportunities for growth is certainly to partner with research houses or technology providers, licensing or outright mergers and acquisition,” said Ramesh Kana, the company’s new Group CEO since January this year.

The company is in the process of increasing capacity of its biolubricants plant in Loxsted, Germany. “We expect the debottlenecking to complete by the middle of 2016. This includes additional site enhancement and fine-tuning of peripheral equipment, which is essential for our strategy to widen our product portfolio for both business platforms of green polymer additives and biolubricants, ” Kana said. Polymer additives are used in plastics manufacturing.

Kana declined to disclose details about the expansion. The Loxstedt plant has a multi-purpose reactor for liquid and solid esters for applications in plastic additives and lubricants and a biolubricant plant which came on stream in the third quarter of 2014.

In Malaysia, a new sulfonation plant – a joint venture with Korea’s AK ChemTech at its Telok Panglima Garang integrated oleochemicals complex – is “reaching its pre-commissioning stage.” Sulfonates are widely used as detergent additives in lubricating oils. The oleochemicals complex, operational since 1984, has a land area of 141,460 square meters with facilities to produce fatty alcohols and acids, glycerine, sulfonation products and special esters for polymer additives and biolubricants.

“Our manufacturing facility in Malaysia is designed to be flexible to accommodate different product portfolios, enabling us to explore a few expansion options in Asia – both organically and inorganically – to support increasing customers’ demands in biolubricants. Details will be available when public announcements are ready to be made, though we can categorically say that we are looking to expand our footprint within two years,” said Kana.

The company is already looking into options for a biolubricant plant in Asia as Kana sees the Asian “biolubricant market growing in double-digit figures, and we are in the midst of engaging with potential local partners” in West Africa

“The recent growth areas for biolubricants have been in North America and Europe,” he added. “However, esters and building blocks to make esters are a major part of our portfolio, and these will find significant growth in China and India where the global lubricant market is seeing the fastest growth rate.”

“Demand for biolubricants is predominantly driven by government regulations. In recent years, we notice there is also demand from end–use consumers for more ‘bio–based’ products. With our growing footprint in Asia-Pacific, this gives us a unique opportunity to offer our biolubricants solutions to our customers in Asia,” said Kana.

Emery Oleochemicals, a specialty chemical producer, is a joint venture between Malaysia’s Sime Darby Plantation and Thailand’s PTT Global Chemical. Headquartered in Selangor, Malaysia, it has more than 1,000 employees worldwide and revenue of U.S. $1 billion for 2013. Apart from biolubricant plants in Germany and Malaysia, the company has a bio–polyol plant in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States, for its biolubricants products.

The company has four brands under its biolubricant segment including Dehylub for chain oil and metalworking fluids, Terradril for oil–field drilling applications, Emerox for a corrosion inhibitor and Emery for drilling fluids and other products. The company produces a range of mono and polyol esters and “together with dicarboxylic acid esters and complex esters, a variety of lubricant applications can be served including the making of end-products that need high flash points and low evaporation rates intended to reduce fire hazards, ” said the company’s website.

Emery Oleochemicals also has its own proprietary ozonolysis-oxidation technology to transform ozone acids into pelargonic or azelaic acid through the powerful reactivity of ozone to cleave Oleic acid. Lubricants and greases using azelate base stocks are commonly found in military and commercial aircraft engines, which require lubrication performance over a wide temperature range.

Sime Darby Plantation is said to be the world’s largest producer of certified sustainable palm oil, with an annual production of 2.7 million tons. It also produces certified sustainable palm kernel oil. PTT Global Chemical is the chemical company of Thailand's state-owned energy company, PTT Group.

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