Exclusive Interview with Simon Westlake, Senior Director, Lubrizol

What area of the lubricants industry do you specialise in, and how does it benefit the industry?

Lubrizol Additives specialises in application-specific solutions, which help to enable, protect, and advance the engines, mechanical systems and emerging technologies used in an expanding range of industries. Our products range from passenger car engine oils to metalworking fluids, marine cylinder oils to antiwear hydraulic fluids, fuel additives to gear oils and everything in between.

To support a world in motion, all our products are extensively tested, ensuring quality, performance and approvals to the demanding specifications OEMs require. We have in-house state-of-the-art testing capabilities that allow us to partner with customers and original equipment manufacturers to develop innovative solutions, including specific mechanical tests that continue to set the standard in performance, reliability and efficiency.

What do you think are the industry’s biggest challenges?

The supply and cost of key raw materials has been one of the biggest challenges the lubricant industry has faced in recent years. In addition to raw material costs, increasing indirect costs such as shipping and freight charges, as well as reliability of supply, has also caused significant instability. Combined with high inflation affecting the purchase of labour and capital equipment used in production and geopolitical uncertainty, the pace of change is significant.

Global base oil availability also poses a challenge. Not all oil marketers and blenders have access to all types and groups of base oils. This can provide oil marketers with difficulties when trying to maintain a product portfolio with desired approvals and specifications.

Over the last 10 years, and on into the future, OEMs have and will continue to evolve their hardware to deliver higher performance. It is vital lubricants are formulated to meet these needs and that the appropriate lubricant is used throughout the vehicle’s life. OEM specifications and their approval processes provide the mechanism to substantiate suitability and communicate this to the market. Whilst delivering the required performance is challenging, especially where many complex specifications exist, it is important the industry continues to work to uphold standards and make sure product recommendations are fully supported through the required testing. The industry faces a growing challenge from unsupported or misleading ambiguous suitability product claims, which can lead to misapplication, hardware damage and provide a lack of consumer protection. It is vital therefore that we continue to work together to uphold standards and strive to deliver the needs of hardware today and on into the future.

Finally, sustainability. The increased focus globally on the environment and the population’s impact on it has brought sustainability to the forefront of the industry. How do we adapt our businesses to advance sustainability? How do we share what our impact is? There has been some progress in developing common CO2 standards with the API and ATIEL rolling out carbon footprint methodologies, but there is still more work to be done.

There has and continues to be increased regulatory changes within the industry, with more chemicals facing deeper regulation in Europe and elsewhere, for example.  

How do you see the industry developing over the next 10+ years?

The world of global transportation is becoming increasingly electrified. By 2050, as many as half the vehicles on the road will be electrified vehicles (EVs). That includes battery electric, fuel cell, and plug-in hybrid. Without a doubt, transportation in the next few decades will look very different than it does today. The lubricant industry that protects the hardware of vehicles must plan and account for this rapid change.  Lubrizol has been at the forefront of this change with the introduction of our EVOGENTM fluids.

Don’t confuse “electrified vehicles” with “the end of the combustion engine.” Every region will adopt EVs differently. Today, Europe and China lead in EV sales, with other regions being slower to adopt EVs. Many passenger EVs will still have an internal combustion engine (ICE) as an integral part of the powertrain.  Lastly, electrification of commercial vehicles, especially long-haul heavy-duty trucks, will be slower than passenger car adoption. While heavy-duty OEMs are exploring zero-emission strategies, the heavy load requirements and extended transport distances will likely demand ICE-powered vehicles to move goods around the world for the next decade.

As parts of the world produce and sell a greater number of EVs, the role of the ICE-powered vehicle will shift. Ensuring that ICE engines run as efficiently as possible is becoming increasingly important, and the lubricant can play a vital role in that. The need for ICE efficiency is also being driven by incoming legislation from government bodies. The drive for lower emissions is meaning changes and developments to hardware within the engines themselves. These developments impact the manufacturing process with changes in temperature and tooling meaning that there are impacts for the industrial fluid market, in particular metalworking fluids.

And it’s not just electrification, interest and activity around alternative fuels more generally is increasing. Hydrogen ICE is getting more attention especially for off-highway applications, the EU is allowing ICE vehicles powered by e-Fuels to be sold post-2035 and ammonia is a front runner to be the new fuel used by marine vessels. Many of these new fuels will require the development and testing of lubricant technologies, which enable their use.

With the growing importance on sustainability, there will be many innovations in the lubricants industry with companies continuing to work toward a more sustainable and environmentally friendly business model. One element that is likely to develop and progress in the next decade is the reporting that companies generate around their impact to the environment. There are many differing approaches to this currently with some reporting on cradle-to-gate impact and others cradle-to-grave for example. There is a need for a standard reporting process within the lubricant industry to ensure customers understand the environmental impact of the products they are buying. Stakeholders within the lubricants industry need to work together to develop this.

There is growing demand for lubricants with improved environmental protective properties, which has been driven by regulatory requirements and social responsibility to protect the land and sea. This is only likely to continue has the world becomes more and more focused on improving their impact on the environment. Lubrizol recently launched their EcoAssurant Industrial product portfolio, which is made up of environmentally acceptable finished fluids, additive packages and components that will play a vital role in elevating the environmentally protective qualities of lubricants in industrial applications worldwide.

What will you be showcasing on your stand at Lubricant Expo?

Our stand at this year’s Lubricant Expo aims to highlight the important role that lubricants play in the world’s journey to efficiency in both transportation and industrial applications. For example, lowering the viscosity of lubricants can help improve efficiency. We will have numerous representatives on the stand ready to meet you and answer your questions around how lubricants can enable efficiency.

What are you most looking forward to seeing at the show?

This year’s Lubricant Expo offers the opportunity for stakeholders within the lubricant industry to network and connect. These opportunities have been scarce due to circumstances over the past few years. As such Lubrizol are excited to connect with key customers and stakeholders within the industry and learn more about how we can help them on their journey to efficiency.