US wax buyers eye potential in GTL wax

15 November 2013 19:42 Source:ICIS News

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US wax buyers are eyeing potentials in gas-to-liquid (GTL) waxes, sources said on the sidelines of American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) conference on Friday.

“We need to examine all the options, and GTL waxes look interesting,” one wax buyer commented.

GTL waxes are made by utilising a Fischer-Tropsch (FT) processing route and are gaining increasing interest in the wax markets.

The interest in GTL, or FT, waxes is driven primarily by the expected global retreat of Group I base oil production as premium Group II and Group III base oils take centre stage because of regulatory and environmental stipulations.

Group I base oils are produced by a solvent process that leads to paraffinic wax residues that are further treated to form most of the waxes now used in commercial end-uses.

Group II and Group III base oils use a different process technology that does not create any waxes.

The GTL option is gaining attention for several reasons, but it is primarily driven by wax buyers’ concerns about paraffinic wax supply going into 2014 and onward.

US market players are considering what GTL options might exist here and looking to Sasol’s South African work as an example.

Sasol Wax, a subsidiary of Sasol is working to expand its hard wax production facility near Johannesburg, South Africa.

This plant presently produces about 200,000 tonnes of hard waxes, medium waxes, liquid paraffins and waxy oils, according to industry sources.

The company has a wax expansion project underway, dubbed the Fischer-Tropsch wax expansion project, or FTWEP.

The FTWEP project is part of the company’s plans to double the hard waxes capacity at the site.

Paraffinic waxes are used in candle-making and a wide variety of industrial and construction end-use applications including particle boards and surface treatments.

The AFPM Lubricants & Waxes conference ended on Friday.

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By Judith Taylor