Crude oil and refined products are bought and sold at points all along the oil value chain, from the wellhead to the final fuel consumer. However, when we speak of oil markets, we typically are referring to one of three key steps in the value chain:

  • Spot market - The most important and active oil markets are the spot markets. This is where large physical parcels or cargoes of crude oil and the major refined products are bought and sold, mostly by oil companies and large trading houses
  • Wholesale (rack ) market - In many local markets, there is also active wholesale trade in oil products out of distribution terminals (at the Rack)
  • End-user market - The end-user market for oil products includes both retail fuel sales and significant business-to-business sales to large fuel consumers such as airlines and railroads

The Refinery Reference Desk includes content derived from our industry experts as well as from public data sources such as company websites. Nothing herein is intended to serve as investment advice. This material is based on information that we believe to be reliable and adequately comprehensive, but we do not represent that such information is in all respects accurate or complete. McKinsey Energy Insights does not accept any liability for any losses resulting from use of the content.

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