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The innumerable applications of white oils, petroleum jelly and liquid paraffins

What is mineral oil?

Mineral oil is any of various colourless, odourless, inert light mixtures of higher alkanes from a mineral source, particularly a distillate of petroleum, as distinct from usually edible vegetable oils. White oils are highly refined mineral oils that are extremely pure, stable, non-toxic and chemically inert. These attributes make them perfect for any application that values these properties, such as pharmaceuticals, consumer goods and cosmetics. It is also used in chemical processing for a variety of products, including medical formulations, ointments, laxatives, vaccines, hair oil and creams, cosmetics, lotions, and capsules.

How is it derived?

Mineral oils are derived from crude petroleum oil and are processed as per the following steps:

1.   Atmospheric distillation.

2.   Followed by vacuum distillation of the atmospheric residue. The vacuum-distillate fractions, which contain hydrocarbons with boiling points (at atmospheric pressure) in the range of about 300–600 °C, and the deasphalted vacuum residue are fed into refinery processes such as solvent extraction, hydrotreatment, and dewaxing that removes n-alkanes, also called deparaffinization.

3.   These refinery streams (also known as base oils) can be further purified, blended, and formulated to yield the finished mineral oil products.

4.   The by-product of the dewaxing step (called slack wax) is deoiled to yield microcrystalline waxes and (hard) paraffin waxes which can be further refined by, e.g. hydrotreatment and blending.

 What’s its market size?

According to a report by Grand View Research, the global mineral oil market size was valued at USD 3.14 billion in 2017. It is likely to expand at a CAGR of 4.0% from 2018 to 2025. Surging demand for white oil by the personal care and pharmaceutical industries has been helping the overall market gain momentum.

The market is poised to witness steady growth over the forecast period due to growing demand from end-use industries such as medical, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and consumer goods. The market also got further impetus from favourable government regulations, particularly in emerging economies of Asia Pacific, Latin America, and the Middle East.

 Pharmaceutical is anticipated to be the fastest-growing application segments for the mineral oil category. They are used by the industry in wide application areas such as laxatives and ointments and for the preparation of tablets and capsules. Additionally, for veterinary purposes it can be used for treatment of several species such as chicken, cats, beef cattle, goats, sheep, swine, dogs, horses and many others.

What’s the market outlook for the Asia Pacific region?

 The Asia Pacific region dominated the global mineral oil market by accounting for approximately half of the overall revenue in 2017. The region is poised to witness a CAGR of 4.7% during the 2018 to 2025 forecast period with a surging demand anticipated from India and China. The demand from the farming and food sector is leading to an increase in the production of food-grade lubricants.

 A technological breakthrough, especially in the field of refining and ultra-purification, is likely to offer better growth prospects for the white oil industry in the coming years. Companies that use proprietary processing technologies will be the front runners in the manufacturing of high-quality end products.

Additionally, the future of the petroleum jelly market also looks promising with a continual demand for personal care products and rising awareness among consumers, especially millennials.

What are the properties of petroleum jelly?

Petroleum jelly exists in a solid form. The human skin cannot completely absorb petroleum jelly, which enables it to act like a barrier preventing dirt formation and subsequently avoiding skin damage. Moreover, on the back of its fibrous and greasy structure, and composition of mineral oils, petroleum jelly has become an ideal raw material to produce pharmaceutical and cosmetics products.

Where is petroleum jelly best used?

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  •  The use of highly refined mineral oils and petroleum jelly in food, cosmetics and medicinal products are summarised below:
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  • A well-known blend of mineral oils and waxes is petrolatum, which is also called petroleum jelly, soft paraffin or Vaseline. Petroleum jelly has excellent hydrating characteristics and forms a sealing barrier on dry and damaged skin, which locks the moisture and helps in speeding up natural recovery process of the skin. This generates high demand for petroleum jelly in pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries.
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  • Petroleum jelly is majorly used for manufacturing balm which is popularly used as a remedy for headaches and cold.
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  • Petroleum jelly is an excellent anti-rusting agent and water repellant. These properties of petroleum jelly are expected to drive the market during the forecast period. Use of petroleum jelly helps industries such as marine, leather, telecommunications, and manufacturing wherein rusting or water can cause severe damage to equipment and operations.
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  • Highly refined mineral oils and waxes, and blends thereof, are used as food additives, additives for food contact materials, cosmetic ingredients, and excipients for pharmaceutical formulations.

The Covid-19 pandemic that struck the world last January, gave mineral oil manufacturers an occasion to serve the pharma industry and the nation as they confronted this crippling crisis. At Gandhar, the company revamped its liquid paraffin production lines to cater to the stringent and urgent need of the pharma industry for this ingredient which is used in the production of the Hydroxychloroquine drug that has been prescribed in the treatment against coronavirus.