The main use for base oils is in the manufacture of lubricants, of which there are many thousands of types. The best-known are automotive lubricants, but there are many more applications in which lubricants are used, some of which are highly specialised. One litre of lubricants is composed of anywhere between 50% and 90% base oil, the rest being made up of additives.
The traditional method of producing base oils is to feed straight-run fuel oil into a Vacuum Distillation column, the output of which can either go into fuels processing or be fed into a solvent extraction plant. The fluid is further treated to remove unwanted properties such as wax, sulphur, and aromatics.
Unlike most other oil and chemical products, there is no industry standard for base oils. Most refineries manufacture different quality base oils. In automotive usage, viscosity index, pourpoint, oxidation stability and volatility are important, but there are other important criteria for measuring base oils in industrial applications for example.
ICIS pricing quotes Base Oil prices in Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and the USA.
Prices relate to paraffinic base oils in all areas, except in the US where both paraffinic and naphthenic base oils prices are quoted.
To find out more about Base Oils Methodology September 2013