Lubricants might make you think of something you would apply to a squeaky door or smear onto a dodgy engine, but did you know that they’re used in such industries as food production, metalwork, agriculture, construction and transport? These are massive sectors, so it’s no surprise that
some countries produce millions of tonnes of the stuff every year.
Which nations make the most? Here are the leading 10 producers:*
10. Italy – 1,283,000 tonnes
Appropriately kicking off our top 10 is the boot-shaped nation of Italy, which easily tops a millions tonnes every year.
Know-it-oil: If you were to put Italy’s yearly lubricant production on one end of a seesaw, you would need around a quarter of the country’s population on the other end to balance it. Better lubricate the fulcrum first!
9. France – 1,526,000 tonnes
Sacre bleu! France is a major player in the lubricants industry, churning out a million and a half tonnes of the stuff annually.
Know-it-oil: France’s yearly lubricant production weighs more than 200 Eiffel Towers.
8. Iran – 1,595,000 tonnes
Surprisingly, Iran is the only top 10 nation in the Middle East. Almost a third of the country’s industrial lubricants market is claimed by the Tehran-based Behran Oil Company.
Know-it-oil: If Iran keeps this rate up for the next four million years, it will have produced enough lubricant to fill the Caspian Sea.
7. Japan – 2,210,000 tonnes
Japan’s motor industry perhaps explains its high lubricant production, with names like Honda, Toyota and Suzuki synonymous with the East Asian nation.
Know-it-oil: The amount of lubricant produced in Japan in a year weighs the same as about 15 million sumo wrestlers.
6. South Korea – 2,431,000 tonnes
Just ahead of Japan is its neighbour South Korea, which boasts a strong automotive industry of its own. Hyundai and Kia are among the Korean car makes you might see on our roads.
Know-it-oil: South Korean weightlifter Sa Jae-hyouk claimed a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics by lifting 203kg. To lift his country’s annual lubricant production, he’d need to become 12 million times stronger!
5. Germany – 2,431,000 tonnes
Germany and South Korea are neck and neck on their production rates, with Germans also famous for their cars. A huge food industry could also be a contributor here, though.
Know-it-oil: Each segment of the Berlin Wall weighed 2.6 tonnes, so nearly a million of them would weigh the same as Germany’s annual lube haul.
4. China – 2,479,000 tonnes
With its enormous population and land mass, China is usually a top 10 producer of almost anything. It has to settle for fourth place here.
Know-it-oil: Amazingly, 200 million bricks from the Great Wall of China would still weigh less than the country’s yearly lubricant production.
3. Russia – 2,630,000 tonnes
Growing rates of vehicle sales in Russia, including that of buses, are expected to see demand for lubricants rise steadily over the next few years.
Know-it-oil: Russia’s lubricant production in a year weighs more than 44.5 million Maria Sharapovas!
2. Singapore – 2,649,000 tonnes
Perhaps the biggest surprise in this list is the contribution of the small nation of Singapore. Still, it’s a very wealthy country, and the main oil trading hub in Asia.
Know-it-oil: With a population of just 5.4 million, it means half a tonne of lubricant per Singaporean is produced annually.
1. United States – 8,858,000 tonnes
Top of the lubricant tree by a long stretch, though, is Uncle Sam. As the world’s largest national economy, it comes up with more than its three closest competitors put together.
Know-it-oil: Americans drink an average of 450 cans of soft drinks in a year, so the amount of sugary pop they consume is still five times more than the lubricant they produce.
*Statistics are correct as of 2011, which is the UN’s most recent available data. Please note that a tonne in this sense is equivalent to 1,000 kilograms, or a metric ton as used in the U.S. When converting mass to volume, this depends on the density of the lubricant, but it has been averaged at 6.7 barrels per tonne using data from https://www.chevronmarineproducts.com/.