The United States produced 61.2 million barrels of base oil in 2021, a 10% increase from 2020 and 1% above 2019’s production, according to data released Monday by the U.S. Energy Information Agency. In December, the country produced 5.3 million barrels, virtually unchanged from the same month in 2020 and 2% less than the December 2019 total.
Sequentially, December’s production declined 10% from 4.8 million barrels in November. The highest monthly base oil production of 5.7 million barrels occurred in June, and the low point of 3.4 million barrels was recorded in February. Production topped 5.2 million barrels in every month from May through December, except for the 4.8 million mark in November.
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Steve Ames of SBA Consulting in Pepperpike, Ohio, pointed out that U.S. base oil and fuels production was heavily impacted in February last year by Winter Storm Uri. “It knocked 25 refineries off-line for one to three months, including some with large base oil plants” he said, including plants in Baytown and Port Arthur in Texas, and affected operations and extended turnarounds at other plants.
“That reduced supply by the better part of one million [tons] to the then restored domestic demand and the lowest monthly production since 2009,” he said. “On the positive side, fuel margins improved by the reduction in fuels output.”
He noted that as fuel demand increased in 2021’s second quarter, fuels refining margins and crude throughout were also increased, restoring feedstock to base oil plants and allowing full production to resume.
Hurricane Ida in August 2021 had a more marginal impact on base oil production in Louisiana, Ames said, mostly at the Excel Parablubes Westlake and ExxonMobil Baton Rouge plants. “It has kept inventories in check despite surpluses in other regions,” he said.
The increase for 2021 came primarily from paraffinic base oil production, which rose 20% to 51.8 million barrels and was also 2% higher than 2019’s 50.8 million barrels.
December production of paraffinic base oils in the U.S. increased 1% to 4.6 million barrels, which was also up 10% from 2019. June had the highest monthly production, at 4.9 million barrels. Sequentially, December’s paraffinic production rose 14% from November’s total. The low points of 2.8 million and 3.7 million barrels occurred in February and March, respectively. Those were the only months when paraffinic production fell below the 4 million barrels mark.
Naphthenic base oil production last year grew 16% to 9.4 million barrels, increasing from 8,161 barrels, though falling 8% shy of 2019’s 10.2 million barrels.
In December, U.S. refiners produced 665,000 barrels of naphthenic base oils, a 5% decline from 700,000 barrels in the same month in 2020 and 20% below December 2019’s 830,000 barrel pace. Compared to last November’s total, December’s naphthenic production increased 11%. Last December’s naphthenic production total was the lowest since February’s 608,000 barrels figure, which was the lowest monthly production this year. Last year, monthly naphthenic production crossed the 900,000 barrels mark three times – in May, July and August.
Read more about U.S. base oil production last year in the April 2022 issue of Lubes’n’Greases magazine.
– Will Beverina contributed to this article.