Unless you work in a particular industry, you may not give two hoots about the trends and issues that companies are facing with their fuels. So this may be the only blog article you need to read on the subject of industrial fuel additives for a long time. Here are the top trends in fuels (and the fuel additives needed to make them whole) going into 2013. There might even be some insight on how it's going to affect you, the average consumer.
1. China and India leading the way
By this, we mean that China and India will continue the trend of third-world countries with exploding populations gobbling up energy resources. For us, that means industry and transportation in those countries using more gasoline, more diesel, more heavy fuel oil, and taking a bigger slice of the world crude oil pie than ever before. Even if China's economic growth slows from its previous breakneck pace (which analysts predict is likely to happen), you've got almost 2.5 billion people combined between those two countries. That's over six times the population of the US. So China and India will consumr more fuel and more of the fuel additives (octane and cetane improver, lubricity additives, cold flow improvers) needed to make them work their best.
2. More environmental controls lead to higher prices
The global trend is towards being more green. In the last 3-4 years, this has meant more countries trying to copy Europe in pushing complex, controlling legislation on many kinds of chemicals. Europe's REACH legislation basically requires all chemical importers to document everything that's being sent into the member states. While this appears to be a good thing for public health, it's a bad thing for all kinds of businesses who face being forced to disclose sensitive formulations information (who's to say that information can't mysteriously find its way into the wrong hands) and also bearing the cost of complying with complicated rules. For you, the consumer, that's going to mean costs passed on to you at all levels of whatever you buy.
3. More Green = More Biofuels
2013 will likely see more use of ethanol and other biofuels around the world. Everyone knows about ethanol here in the US. But in other parts of the world, they're experiementing with putting ethanol in diesel fuel. Plus they're pushing widespread mixing of biodiesel feedstocks into regular diesel, without any requirements for labelling. So if you're a diesel user, it's very likely the diesel fuel you buy is already up to 5% biodiesel and you wouldn't know it.
4. The Coal Pushback
Big news from the EPA a short time ago put a cap on building any new coal-fired power plants. Coal is getting to be the bad guy of the energy picture. This move away from coal means a move towards both natural gas and fuel oil-fire power plants. Natural gas is being found everywhere and is really changing the energy picture for the United States. But not every place has access to natural gas, which is where fuel oil comes in. We may see a worldwide swing back to more fuel oil usage as they shy away from coal. And this presents opportunities for additive manufacturers like Bell Performance. We know us as the gas and ethanol additive makers, but we've been treat fuel oil for power plants for literally decades. And fuel oil needs certain kinds of additives, like combustion catalysts (ATX-950) and magnesium corrosion inhibitors, to keep the expensive plant hardware at peak efficiency and working their best over their life cycle.
So as the world ponders its position on the dirty boys of coal, we may see a trend towards more use of fuel oil and natural gas to make the power you use every day.
This post was published on January 29, 2013 and was updated on May 9, 2014.