Lubricating Grease Production in CIS

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The world production and consumption of lubricating greases has been at the level of 1 million tons per year for the last few years that is approximately 3% of the general consumption of lubricants.

The bigger part of greases is produced with the use of petroleum oils with the minor still steady increase of the share of synthetic-based greases. Particular attention to development, production, and consumption of high-temperature greases along with biodegradable greases, with the dispersion medium being based on vegetable oils or their derivatives, is paid in many countries of the world. Lithium base is the main type of greases produced in industrially developed countries. Their share is 60% in Japan, 70% in the countries of Western Europe and North America, and 80% in China.

Practically all the assortment of greases in post-soviet area is produced in Russia and Ukraine. 8 enterprises with the total capacity of 132.4 thousand tons were functioning within the territory of Russian 1993. Today grease production capacities has decreased for almost one third, even though the number of companies has increased up to 18 by the year 2004, and it is still increasing. Total amount of 2000-2006 grease production in Russia was approximately 50 thousand tons per year. However it has decreased to the level of 30 thousand tons by the year 2010.Russia is well behind industrially developed countries of the world based on the structure of greases produced. Thus, the share of lithium base greases in the total production has been staying small, even though the tendency to its increasing (from 23% in 2004 to 34% in 2008) has been observed.

More than 150 thousand tons of greases was produced in Ukraine in the beginning of the 1990-s. Economical crisis and the lack of own raw materials led to the significant decrease in their production. It was reaching only 19.7 thousand ton in 2002 that is it has shortened almost by 8 times. The gradual increase in the production volumes up to 24.5 thousand tons in 2005 had been observed since 2002, even though the oriented capacity of plants was more than 170 thousand tons of greases per year. The rapid decrease in grease production has occurred after 2008 in Ukraine.

Ten grease producing companies are distinguished today in Ukraine. The leading spot among them belongs to Azmol JSC (Berdyansk). Actual production of greases of this plant, including hydrocarbon and semifluid ones, made up approximately 18 thousand tons in 2005 with the prevailing share of calcium base (50%) and lithium base (35%) greases.

Calcium base greases, especially cup greases and hydrated ones are the most widespread in post-soviet countries. This fact can be explained by predominance of obsolete equipment in which their use is justified; adequate provision of raw materials and production capacities, and, also, their low prime cost.

Small quantities of waterless calcium base greases (that are exceeding the hydrated ones by characteristics) are produced.

Calcium complex lubricating greases are used to the temperature extent of 150 оС; they posses good tribological, protective and anticorrosive properties. However their low mechanical stability and noticeable thermostrengthening are limiting the are of their application. Production volumes of calcium complex lubricating greases are approximately 15% of total calcium base grease production.

Sulfonate and salicylate greases being superalkaline calcium complex greases are of the greatest prospects. They exceed multipurpose lithium and aluminum complex greases and also polyureal base greases by some characteristics.

Lithium base greases are separated into two kinds: simple and complex. Simple lithium base greases with 12-oxystearic acid base are characterized by a work capacity in the temperature range of -40 оС to +120 оС; they posses good water resistance, good mechanical and colloidal stabilities.

Lithium complex greases had been produced since 1987 in the CIS countries. They have a work capacity in the bigger temperature range (-50 оС up to +160…200оС, depending on the dispersion medium).  Practically, LCG-metallurgic grease developed by UkrSRIOP “MASMA” is being the only large-tonnage quantity-produced lithium complex greases in the CIS.

Lately the production of sodium and sodium-calcium base greases (ЛЗ-ЦНИИ, Constalin, 1-13) has decreased in CIS.

The production of aluminum base greases is currently at the level of 60 tons per year in Russia. Aluminum complex greases are not produced in Russia. Their production has been arranged by AZMOL JSC in Ukraine recently.

The production of other soap-base greases is insignificant in Russia and Ukraine.

The share of inorganic non-soap and organic non-soap greases (aerosils, silica gels, soot, bentonites) reached 3% by 2010. These greases are mainly either highly tailored high-temperature (up to 200-250 °С) chemically stable greases, or joint and threaded greases. The production of AZMOL BENTOL bentone grease (developed in cooperation with UkrSRIOP “MASMA”) has been organized at AZMOL JSC plant. Bentone greases are not produced in Russia.

Overall, the production of inorganic non-soap and organic non-soap greases in Ukraine reached 1.1 % in 2005 (for instance, it was 14.5% in North America and 27.4% in Japan). Polyureal base greases are the most widespread ones in Japan. They have been outgrowing both lithium and lithium complex greases in the market of this country. The production of polyureal base greases is still at the level of pilot batch quantities in CIS.

In CIS it is usually accepted to refer to hydrocarbon and semiliquid greases as lubricating greases. The production volume of hydrocarbon greases was at the level of 2 thousand tons per year in 2008. They are mainly rust-preventing greases (like cannon type ones) and cable (rope) greases. The production of hydrocarbon greases is being at the level of 1 to 1.5 thousand tons per year for the last few years in Ukraine.

Semi-liquid greases are in the interposition among liquid oils and lubricating greases. They have been more and more used in all kinds of reduction gears lately. Their production is approximately 1 thousand tons per year in Ukraine and up to 3-4 thousand tons per year in Russia.

Overall, the steady tendency towards increasing of grease volumes produced and sold has been set. Recent year crisis has slowed down this process in some way however the assortment of greases is still increasing.

The shortage of raw materials is a constraint for increasing grease production volumes in the modern conditions of grease demand increase. Industrial production of a line of high-quality instrument, high-temperature and petrol-resistant greases has been stopped because of the absence of raw materials components.

The production of efficient wear-preventive and extreme-pressure oil-soluble additives along with effective corrosion inhibitors is practically absent inUkraine. Production of only some of these products has been started in Russia recently.

In the technology of grease production at most of the plants there are low-temperature processes (maximal production temperature is 120-130 оС) and a very low share of capacities allowing to carry on a high temperature processes with maximal temperature of grease production being over 200 оС are prevalent. Most of the companies of the industry are still not equipped enough for final processing of greases (coolers, deaerators, homogenizers), thus lowering the quality of the finished product.

Traditionally unfavorable assortment structure of greases produced is still around in spite of some positive changes. Most of the greases produced at the moment has been outdated 30-40 years ago, while new high quality products are implemented very slowly.

Increasing need for thread joint greases and stop valve and drill equipment greases resistant to hydrogen sulphide and gas condensate is covered only for 40% by domestic joint greases. Many of those contain up to 60% of powder of soft metals (including lead), they are extremely expensive and ecologically unsafe. The production of drilling greases is almost absent in Russia.

Grease producers are not catching up with rapidly developing automobile industry. There is a catastrophic lack in high quality high-temperature automobile greases for wheel bearings, equal angular velocity joints, etc. Lithium base greases do not always meet the demands for specifications of automobile producers.

Outdated greases LZ-TzNII, 1-13 and ZhRO are still the main for axle roller bearings of railroad moving consist and the underground in CIS. The so-called greases of third generation are used for lubrication of these friction units in Europe, North America and Japan; the most peculiar representatives of these greases are lithium complex and polyureal greases.

The keen need in instrumental greases is experienced. Theses greases make a special group of greases defining no only scientifically-technical state of industry but also an overall defense capability of the country. Unfortunately, the shortage for modern domestic greases is compensated by importing (up to 15 thousand tons per year).

In order to improve the situation both, in Russia and in Ukraine, it is necessary to conduct a technical reequipment or reconstruction of many plants of the industry with the goals of renovation of capital assets, organizing the production of more efficient modern greases, and also increasing the flexibility and universality of technological lines and processes. Close cooperation with scientific institutes possessing significant experience in the field should be established by producers in order to develop new prospective greases, organization of their industrial production and its scientific accompaniment.

To our big regret, the scientific potential in the field of development and fundamental research of lubricating materials, collected through many years, has been lost to a great extent. Many scientific groups and schools came to an end. This is one of the reasons responsible for the decrease of competitive ability of domestic lubricants and yearly increase of their import volume.

UkrSRIOP “MASMA” is barely sole scientific organization of the post-soviet area today that managed even with losses remain standing after the break down of the Soviet Union; and it is still functioning as a primary organization for development of formulas for greases of general purposes and their production purposes. For many years of its activity, the specialists of the Institute developed scientific background for the creation of modified silica gel (aerosol) base grease, organophilic bentonite, fine-grained and expanded graphite, fluorinated soot and graphite, hydrocarbon greases, lithium soap greases, calcium, lithium and aluminum complex greases, etc. The continuous process of lithium soap simple and complex greases has been organized at AZMOL JSC and RIKOS (Russia) plants; production of greases at Kuskovsk lubricating greases plant, which is a subsidiary of “Russian Railroads”JSC (Russia), has been restored; also, production of number of simple and complex greases has been organized in Cuba and Vietnam.

However life keeps on going so by the year 2000 most of scientific and technical developments of the past years have either exhausted themselves or have demanded their significant renovation. As a response to consumer demands mechanicians develop new equipment that is lubricated single time only during their production and assembling. Nowadays greases with prolonged working life and extended performance ranges are in high demand. The technologies of a new generation sets the goals of increasing the duration of effective functioning of greases in the increased temperature range and under extended loads and velocities in friction units. The requirements for greases become more strict, and their properties such as anti-oxidation and mechanical stability, colloidal stability in time, tribological characteristics become more and more important. Today the leading roles in production volumes and application in dynamically developing countries belongs to high-temperature greases with grease dropping point not lower than 230 оC.

Hence, the grease department of UkrSRIOP “MASMA” has optimized technology and instrumental equipment of production for:

- lithium complex greases (the process of the production of these greases is significantly accelerated due to reduction of the main energetically cost  stages of the technological process – dehydration of the mixture and thermal treating, the temperature of thermal treatment has been significantly lowered, the negative impact of high-temperature oxidizing transformations on the properties of a finished product has been decreased);

- polyureal greases (due to managing technological parameters of the process (temperature, component ratio) it is possible to obtain products with the given properties – dropping point, mechanical stability and optimal price-quality ratio);

- bentone greases (due to optimization of the homogenization type and application of efficient thickener without dispergator the production cycle has been shortened and its flammability risk grade has been lowered).

Due to realization of the technological methods mentioned above, the assortment of domestic greases has been increased lately. The new products have been developed with the most part of scientific developments being at the highest worldwide level supported by the interest of well-known French, Russian, South Korean,Belarus,Vietnam, Indian and Iranian companies in them. Some of the grease do not have analogues in the whole world.

Recently multi-functional synthetic base aviation grease Aeromas has been developed with lithium soap as a thickener agent; it is assigned for bearings lubrication. The quality parameters of Aeromas are in accordance with specifications of BMS 3-33 of Boeing (USA).

The line of modern high-temperature calcium greases with complex superalkaline thickeners has been developed by the Institute. Multi-functional superalkaline calcium complex greases such as sulfonate grease named Sullena and alkylsalicylic grease named Alksana are designed for the work of heavy duty and high-temperature friction units working in the increased humidity conditions or in the aggressive environment, and also in the friction units of food industry equipment.

Organizing the production of ecologically safe greases with the use of renewable raw materials is a task of a great importance in Russia and Ukraine. UkrSRIOP “MASMA” can offer the receipts, technologies and instrumental equipment for production of biodegradable greases for food, woodworking and paper industries, as well as for the agriculture.

The set of actions has been taken by UkrSRIOP “MASMA” for improving the variety of semi-fluid reduction gear greases. For the last few years the following greases have been developed: operational rust-preventing grease named Reductol M, designated to lubricate heavy duty reduction gears of industrial (including metallurgical) equipment, and also for the notched chaining of locomotive driving force reduction gears; water-resistant gear Traversol used for lubrication of heavy duty sliding rollers of oil ore crushers; water-resistant grease Karterol EP OO used for lubrication of heavy duty notched reduction transmissions with oil bath lubricating system, it provides non-stop performance of notched driving transmission reducers and wheel running system of trams with one filling per year and it excludes environmental pollution.

Overall, the Institute is successfully combining fundamental and applied research in the field of grease development, chemmotology, rheology, rational use techniques with their production implementation; standardization; certification; marketing; patenting; development of technological processes and instrumental equipment of grease production. The set of modern laboratory equipment, test benches and tools for determination of physical, chemical, rheological and other properties, allows the Institute to investigate greases at the level in accordance with almost all world standards.