Base oil is a lubricating oil produced by refining crude oil (known as mineral base oil) or through chemical synthesis (known as synthetic base oil). It exhibits a boiling point within the range of 500°F to 1050°F and consists of hydrocarbons with 18 to 40 carbon atoms. Base oil is generally used to manufacture products such as lubricating grease, motor oil, and metal processing fluids. According to the American Petroleum Institute, these oils are classified into five main categories: Group I, Group II, Group III, Group IV, and Group V on the basis of their percentage of saturates, sulfur content, and viscosity index. Based on their chemical structure, base oils are classified as paraffinic and naphthenic.
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Naphthenic base oil is derived from naphthenic crude. It displays a low pour point, contains very little wax, and is therefore highly stable. Moreover, it yields medium viscosity index and low viscosity index base oils which is why it is inexpensive. Naphthenic base oil falls into the Group V category. It is also known as “pale oil” due to its color. Being rich in aromatic hydrocarbons, these oils display a high solvency advantage for certain types of additives. It is also rich in cyclo-paraffins.
Due to their excellent low temperature properties and solubility & solvency abilities, naphthenic base oils are widely used as metal working fluids, transformer oils, printing inks, polymer extenders, and high pressure compressor lubricants as well as in grease production and adhesive compounding. Copper naphthenate derived from naphthenic oil and copper salts is used as a wood preservative and pesticide.
Major applications of naphthenic base oil are found in the lubricant (about 30%), electrical (about 30%), process oil (about 40%), and tire industries. In the lubricating industry, it is mainly used to manufacture lubricating greases, metal working fluids, and other industrial lubricants such as hydraulic fluids and gear oils. In the electrical industry, it acts as an industrial oil for industrial transformers. In the process oil industry, these oils are employed as adhesives & sealants, printing inks, battery separators, and antifoams. In the tire industry, it works as extender oil in tire rubber and oil-extended polymers.
The global naphthenic base oil market is expected to expand exponentially in the near future. The rising demand for automobiles in emerging countries such as China and India drives the automobile industry, boosting the need for finished lubricants and therefore for naphthenic base oil. Rapid industrialization has also led to a high demand for naphthenic base oil from various end-users. Moreover, with the growing requirement for electricity, especially in China and India, electric networks are expanding, leading to upgrading of the transformers which fuels the demand for transformer oil and therefore for naphthenic base oils. The growing global transmission and distribution network is a key driver of the naphthenic base oil market. Furthermore, rising demand for process oils as plasticizers and carrier fluids in the tire and rubber industry is projected to result in the growth of naphthenic base oils in the near future.
Geographically, the naphthenic base oil market can be distributed over North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, and Latin America. In terms of consumption, Asia Pacific is likely to dominate the global naphthenic base oil market during the forecast period due to the presence of rapidly emerging economics such as China and India in the region which are currently exhibiting increasing demand for finished lubricants. The markets in Europe and North America are likely to shrink during the forecast period − the former because western European economies are still in recovering from their recent slump and are as such unlikely to indicate attractive growth rates in their demand for finished lubricants and the latter owing to the smaller size of the market in both Canada and Mexico and the relatively flattened rate of consumption in the U.S. This country is a relatively mature market and constitutes a share of about 80% in the volume of finished lubricants consumed in the region, which is however poised to reduce. The only market of note in the region is Mexico, which is predicted to exhibit strong growth in its automotive as well as industrial sectors during the forecast period.
Key players operating in the market include Chevron Corporation, Calumet Speciality Products Partners L.P., Regon Energy, Cross Oil & Refining Co. Inc., Nynas AB, PetroChina Company Limited, Royal Dutch Shell plc, and Petronas Lubricants Belgium NV.