UK Brent Oil is sourced from the North Sea and its value is used to price two-thirds of the world's internationally-traded crude oil supplies.
The commodity has delivery dates throughout the year and it is priced in dollars, with each contract equating to 1,000 barrels and traders operating on the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE).
It tends to be referred to simply as Brent Crude or London Brent and includes several different categorisations of crude oil, including Brent Sweet Light Crude, Oseburg, Ekofisk and Forties.
Petroleum suppliers in Europe, Africa and the Middle East often price their oil according to Brent Crude's value on the ICE if it is being sold to the West.
The quantity of oil produced and the demand for it tend to be the most important factors when it comes to the price of the commodity, but political situations in oil-producing nations can also have a major impact.
With the popular sentiment for making technology greener and cutting carbon emissions, major advances in sustainable energy could also cause the value of Brent Crude to drop.
In terms of its history, Brent Crude was relatively steady from the late 1980s to the early 2000s - aside from a notable spike in 1990 and a dip in 1999 - but from 2004 onwards it began a steady rise.
This peaked in July 2008 at around $145, before sliding down again over the ensuing six months. However, a combination of political and production-based factors has prompted the commodity to climb again, particularly in 2011.
The commodity is currently more expensive than the West Texas Intermediate classification of oil.
In chemical terms, Brent Crude contains about 0.37 per cent sulphur, which is what classifies the oil as 'sweet'.
The name Brent derives from the moniker given to an oil field by Shell UK Exploration, which investigated the North Sea region on behalf of Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell.
Shell originally named all fields after birds and in this case it christened the area after the Brent goose.
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