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The EU changed our industry for ever

Nynas’ technical and marketing chiefs have teamed up to study recent advances in rubber process oils for tyre and non-tyre applications, penning a paper that will be presented at the Indian Rubber Expo & Tyre Show in New Delhi in January 2015.


Kamyar Alavi, who is the head of technical development and market support for chemical and tyre industries in the Asia Pacific region, worked on the paper with Thorsten Lutze, Marketing Manager Tyre Oils, and the Tech DMS team. He took a moment to explain some of their key findings.

You give an overview in the paper of how the rubber process oils market has changed since the EU banned highly aromatic oils almost a decade ago. How big an impact was that on the industry?

Kamyar: That was the game changer as before then highly aromatic oils were the product of choice for the tyre and rubber industry. The exception was the North American market where naphthenic oils were the common product for the industry.

In 2005, the European Union passed the directive that banned highly aromatic oils; the law came into effect in 2010. It was a paradigm shift that changed the industry forever as countries like China also adapted so that tyres made there would comply with EU legislation.

So highly aromatic oils are out and naphthenic oils are in?

Kamyar: Consumers are increasingly aware of the negative aspects of aromatic extracts. Equally, the price difference between aromatic extracts and compliant alternatives is decreasing so the whole market is changing. Now the proportion of aromatic oils has gone from above 70 percent to about 25 percent. Today naphthenic oils occupy a third of the global market volume for low PAH, non-carcinogenic tyre oils and that will only increase.

In the paper, you analyse how naphthenic oils compare with the other industry standards such as TDAE (treated distillate aromatic extracts), RAE (residue aromatic extracts) and also DAE (distillate aromatic extracts, which is now banned in most established markets). How do they stack up regarding performance in tyre rubber compounds?

Kamyar: The overall mechanical/material properties are on a par with the more traditional aromatic extracts like DAE and TDAE. Compared to RAE they have quite a few advantages from a processing and handling point of view.

However, there's one specific area where naphthenic oils – or more accurately Nynas tyre oils which we included in our studies – outperform the competition, namely in the rolling resistance area, which is very important for the tyre's fuel economy features.

How important are naphthenic oils in ensuring that the new range of tyres are safe, can perform and also comply with regulations?

Kamyar: All of the tyre oils that Nynas has on the market are low in the content of polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), which are the carcinogenic molecules in the tyre oils. That gives an assurance to the industry that they can use the naphthenic oils as compliant oils and that the tyre-related performance criteria are met using them. Naphthenic oils comprise about a third of the volume of low-PAH oils used by the industry, so that is also an indication of the performance.

Are there any advantages for consumers using tyres with naphthenic oils as opposed to highly aromatic extracts?

Kamyar: At Nynas we were the first tyre oil supplier to identify that by using naphthenic oils you obtain a better rolling resistance performance than you would with aromatic oils or other alternatives. This results in the final product, the tyre, having higher properties in terms of fuel economy. It also leads to lower heat build-up, which is important for the performance of agricultural and solid tyres.

For us it was a significant discovery that gives us an advantage over our competitors. Today, we see that this is recognized not only by our customers, but also by our competitors in the market.

Since 2012 tyres sold in the EU come with an energy label similar to the ones on washing machines. Has this been good for the rubber process oils business?

Kamyar: Absolutely as by using naphthenic oils it is much easier to get a lower rolling resistance that helps you get a higher grading on fuel economy. Other places like Japan and Korea have a similar labelling system already in place, while other countries such as Brazil are introducing the same system, which can only help.

Last year you gave a presentation at The Future Tire Conference in Brussels. How do you see the market changing in the years to come and what role do you expect Nynas to play in this?

More countries are banning aromatic extracts so that opens the door for other low-PAH alternatives. Consumers are more environmentally aware and as a result we see a growing potential even in places where aromatic oils can still be used. The growth of naphthenic oils has been quite substantial and we expect the importance of these oils to grow in the near future for the tyre industry. That's why we entered the market and that's what we are working on.

And finally, why are you launching the paper in India?

Alavi: India is an important market to us. It is mainly a domestic-oriented market that isn't obliged to change over to naphthenic oils but we have seen a lot of interest from companies there. Nynas has participated in this forum before and it is important to have a presence.

The 8th annual India Rubber Expo & Tyre Show takes place from January 15th - 17th 2015 in Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, India.

Text: Patrick Reilly

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