For the past two months, the global lubricant industry has felt the pinch of civil unrest in Venezuela. A strike that sidelined the national oil company of the worlds fifth-largest oil exporter has been blamed for a run-up in crude oil prices. Naphthenic base oil refiners around the world lost their largest feedstock supplier. Latin America found itself without one of its chief sources of paraffinic base oils.
But the difficulties for the industry outside Venezuela have paled in comparison to those heaped on the lubricant market inside the country. Not only did the strike cause the closure of the nations largest lube producer; it also cut off base oil supply for 32 days and counting. To make matters worse, lube companies, like the rest of the country, have had to cope with shortages of fuel and cash flow.