Base oils can be termed as the building blocks of oils and greases. These are actually lubrication grade oils obtained by refining crude oil or by chemical synthesis. Base oils normally constitute 70% to 99% of a lubricant’s formulation. It is estimated that the global demand for base oil was around 36,614.3 kilo tons in 2014. The overall base oil market is anticipated to be worth US$30,973.1 million by 2020.
Base Oil Groups: Group II and Group III Base Oils Gradually Taking Over Global Base Oil Market
The American Petroleum Institute has classified base oils into five categories:
Group I Base Oils: These are the cheapest base oils in the market as they are solvent-refined. Presently, these oils account for the largest share in the global base oil market owing to the low cost. However, the consumption of Group I base oil is gradually declining and consumers are shifting to Group II and Group III base oils which are of higher quality and meet the various emission norms in the vehicles. The temperature range for Group I base oils is between 32 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. These oils contain less than 90% saturates, and have a viscosity-index range of 80 to 120. SN150, BS150, and others are various types of Group I base oils.
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Group II Base Oils: These oils are manufactured by hydrocracking and due to the presence of saturated hydrocarbon molecules, these oils exhibit better anti-oxidation properties. These oils are clearer in color with less than 0.03% sulphur content and a viscosity index of 80 to 120. Rising demand for Group II base oils is expected to maximize its production capacity by 2020. 500N, 600N, and others are the types of Group II base oils.
Group III Base Oils: Group III base oils are extremely hydrocracked under high pressure and are heated through a long process to obtain purer base oil. These oils are also known as synthesized hydrocarbons. Group III base oils are more refined than Group II base oils and have a viscosity index above 120. 4cSt, 6cSt, and others are the different types of Group III base oils available in the global base oils market.
Group IV Base Oils: These synthetic base oils have a wider temperature range and are used in extreme cold conditions and high heat applications.
Group V Base Oils: These include all other base oils such as phosphate ester, silicone, polyester, biolubes, and others. These are usually mixed with other base oils to improve the oil’s properties.
Group II and Group III Base Oils: The Most Used Automotive Lubricants
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It has been studied that automobile engines can run up to 7,500 to 25,000 miles with Group II or Group III base oils. Group II base oils also meet the standards of European and North American fuel efficiency protocols and stringent emission regulations. In fact, automotive lubricant standards in Europe and the U.S. are propelling the base oil market in Latin America. Owing to high demand for Group II base oils, a lack of domestic production in South America is noted. The price of Group II oil is higher than that of the Group I and it also witnesses increasing demand due to which manufacturers are setting up new Base II oil hubs. Manufacturers such as Chevron are establishing additional storage facility for Group II base oil. With rapid growth in automotive industry worldwide, the base oil market is expected to flourish for long.