In the game of EVE Online there are big things and little things. Running missions is a little thing. Refining scrap for a profit is a little thing. But running a starbase reaction? That's a big thing.
I've been on a starbase kick lately. I like the idea that running one puts a lot of ISK on the table, but that it pays huge dividends. I like that it's a long-term investment. I like that it is a something that an entire corporation can work together on. I like that the more profitable projects need to take place in null-sec or low-sec. In short, I like starbases.
This is a guide to reacting moon minerals with a starbase, with a profitable and easy example.
There are several barriers to entry for mining moons and reacting their minerals, including:
- The best moons are jealously guarded by big alliances. Even middling moons are often attacked or extorted by smaller groups.
- The starbase, gear, and fuel needed are all quite expensive as an up-front investment cost.
- It is a lot of work doing the math to figure out what is profitable, and updating it as the market changes.
- Finding the right moons can be quite difficult (though not as difficult as it used to be).
- Even knowing how to set up a starbase requires a level of expertise that most do not possess.
- The whole project could be blown up overnight if the wrong people get involved.
- Setting up a starbase requires effort, as does keeping it fueled.
Assuming you can handle them, these barriers are actually a good thing. They mean that everybody and their grandma can't run reactions. If they could, it would not be a very lucrative activity.
Why React Now?
Some time around when alchemy was introduced, running a reaction starbase became a popular thing to do. The price and profit of running a tower plummeted. With the Dominion and Tyrannis expansions came changes to moon minerals and fuel costs, resulting in steadily lower numbers of people reacting on moons. It seems likely that the number of starbases has not gone down, but that many of them are in wormhole where it is generally impractical to perform reactions.
Also of note is the destruction of the old Northern Coalition, which had been stable for so long that there were literally hundreds (perhaps thousands) of reactions taking place in their space. In any case, even some very easy reactions have become profitable again, and I recommend that serious industrialists or expansion-minded CEOs consider it.
As of right now, it is possible to make good money with just a single starbase, on moons that are quite common. What is more, it can be done with a medium starbase rather than a large, meaning it is comparatively easy to fuel and easier to afford in the first place.
The reaction in question is Sulfuric Acid, which is made by combining Atmospheric Gases and Evaporite Deposits in a simple reactor array at a starbase. Both of those ingredients are found all over the EVE Universe, often in the same moon.
The steps of this plan are as follows:
- 1. Find a viable moon on a web site like DOTLAN.
- 2. Probe the moon to see if it really has the materials you need.
- 3. Check out the solar system and see what other organizations have starbases there.
- 4. Buy your starbase, the related gear, and a week worth of fuel.
- 5. Set up the starbase and get things running.
- 6. Keep fueling your starbase and exporting your product to Jita.
- 7. Sell your product in Jita.
1. Find A Viable Moon
The web site DOTLAN is an excellent resource in general, and can definitely put you on the right track with finding a valuable moon. A caveat applies, though: In my experience of using DOTLAN to find moons, it has been 100% accurate with high-value moons like those containing Technetium and Dysprosium. For moons that are not top-dollar, the accuracy rate drops to something like 50%. This is why step two is absolutely essential.
Note that players can only perform reactions in .3 security status solar systems or lower. This means that when you figure out your plan, you need to look for accessible and/or livable areas of space with that security status or less.
2. Probe The Moon
Buy yourself a covert ops ship (any) or a tech I probing frigate (Magnate, Heron, Imicus, or Probe), buy and fit an Expanded Probe Launcher, load it with Gaze Survey Probes (or another survey probe type), fly to the solar system you have selected.
Assuming you get into the system and are not being chased by pirates, you should first warp to the planet that your moon orbits. Open your directional scanner (push CTRL + F11), add moons to your overview, aim at your moon, narrow the directional scanner to about 15 degrees, and see if there is already a starbase on that moon. If there is, you're out of luck and need to find another moon. At least, unless you have a posse of battleships and dreadnoughts backing you up.
Once you find a moon candidate that is not occupied, align your ship toward it and fire your probe launcher. Keep your directional scanner open, and after a little while (depending on what kind of survey probe you used) the contents of the moon will appear in the third tab.
Try not to be disappointed if it takes you a while to find a viable moon, it's well worth the effort. I have had better luck in the middle of low-sec regions than in those immediately bordering high-sec, though your mileage may vary. If there is one or (ideally) several stations in that solar system it will ease your life considerably, as will solar systems that are not on a well-traveled route between high-sec and null-sec, so check out those candidates first.
3. Check Out The Solar System
It pays to be aware of your neighbors. Get in a covert ops or a pod and start working your way through all of the moons in your chosen solar system. Are there a lot of other starbases? Who owns them? Are they big alliances that might not care about your moon, or small local corporations with reputations for aggression? While you are looking around, do many people travel through the solar system? Do any of them try to find and kill you? The point of all this is that you should know what you are getting into before you move in. If you assess the risk to be worth it, proceed. If not, keep driving.
4.1 Buy Your Gear
Here is the shopping list for your setup:
- x1 Gallente Control Tower Medium
- x1 Simple Reactor Array
- x1 Silo
- x2 Moon Harvesting Array I or x2 Silo (see below)
- x1 Sulfuric Acid Reaction
In an ideal setup, you will have two moon harvesters pulling in your two ingredients, but if you have opted to settle for less favorable circumstances you will need to swap out a harvesting array for each missing ingredients. The input ingredients can easily be purchased at Jita though, again, this really hurts your profit margins.
Jita, Amarr, and Rens are the best places to get this stuff. Be aware that some items (like the control tower as of this writing) will sometimes be subject to price manipulation attempts. If that happens you can either wait or buy a blueprint copy of whatever you need and make it yourself.
4.2 Buy A Week Of Fuel
- Enriched Uranium: 336
- Oxygen: 2184
- Mechanical Parts: 504
- Coolant: 672
- Robotics: 168
- Oxygen Isotopes: 37,800
- Liquid Ozone: 1,344
- Heavy Water: 11,256
- Strontium Clathrates: 8,000
Note that the strontium clathrates are one-time expense unless your starbase gets attacked. Note also that planet-made fuels (the first five items on the list) are often sold to buy orders. Given a week of notice and a set of buy orders in Jita, you can likely slash 10%-20% off your fuel bill.
5. Set Up The Starbase
Setting up the starbase is the riskiest part. You can easily do this entire thing with an industrial or blockade runner, which is part of the appeal of this project. First, get all of all of your gear as close to your moon as possible while still staying safe. For most of us, that means the nearest high-sec entry point. Then, wait until the coast is clear and move your stuff in. Depending on where you are trying to go, the coast might be clear most of the day, or it might only be clear in the dead of night.
If you have never set up a starbase before, please check out our other guide for a step by step guide. The short of it is that you need starbase management roles for your corporation, to be at your chosen moon, to right-click on the control tower in your cargo hold and select 'Launch for Corp', to anchor it, to right click on the anchored control tower and open the fuel and strontium bays so you can fill them, and to set a password. You then launch and anchor each of the structures in a similar way, except that when anchoring them you will need to drag a small box with arrows around to select the location, then right click on it to anchor it there.
Once you have all of the structures anchored, put your Sulfuric Acid Reaction into the simple reactor and right-click on it while within 2500 meters to select the 'online' option. Right-click on your control tower and open the management panel, then select the 'processes' panel and the 'production' sub-panel. Right click on each of your moon harvesters and select 'change type' to start mining. Drag the icon to the right of your moon harvesters (or substitute silos) to the corresponding icon on the left of the simple reactor. Right-click on your product silo and change the material it contains to Sulfuric Acid, then drag the icon to the right of the silo to the corresponding icon on the left of that silo. Then click the 'apply' button at the bottom of the management control panel.
6. Fuel And Empty Your Starbase
Firstly, you will need to empty your output silo every 200 hours, or a bit over eight days. If you have a station in-system, you should try to store it there between exports.
Secondly, you can and should produce as much fuel locally as possible. Try to rely on the planets in your solar system so that you do not need to worry about neighboring systems. The less you have to travel, the safer you are. My paranoia runs deep enough that I would rather import things than make them outside the solar system I am based in. But again, your mileage may vary.
One way to deal with producing fuel locally is to have a second character on your EVE account that is otherwise not being used camp at the starbase in an industrial, with Interplanetary Consolidation and Remote Sensing trained to level four. That way, you can go off with your main character and do whatever it is you enjoy (read: run missions) while your alt character babysits the starbase.
7. Sell Your Product In Jita
The final step here is dropping your product off at Jita and selling it. Sell orders are a good idea as the buy orders can be pretty insultingly low. The down side of not getting an immediate sale is that, like many things in Jita, moon minerals and reaction products tend to get undercut within minutes. Still, big-time producers tend to buy big stacks, and the market moves quickly on weekends.
Be sure to keep track of the price of Sulfuric Acid and, if you feel like extra credit, Tungsten Carbide and Nanotransistors. Those last two are the advanced reactions that make use of Sulfuric Acid. If they rise, Sulfuric Acid eventually will as well. If they crash, you may want to start dumping your stock.
Check out this last page for some number crunching about this business model.
I highly recommend making your own spreadsheet along these lines, as the price of fuel is constantly shifting. In this spreadsheet I present the worst-case scenario of reacting with ingredients purchased in Jita rather than mining. In the footnote at the bottom right is the ideal business model, with both ingredients coming out of the moon.
Having a spreadsheet like this will come in handy if the Sulfuric Acid reaction ever becomes unprofitable due to market conditions, in that you will be able to more easily generate replacement options.
Some Last Words
Some final advice is to avoid keeping more than a month of fuel on hand. The moon mineral market is prone to abuse, and what is profitable one month may not be the next. Check out the other simple reactions and see what makes the most ISK. There are a ton of spreadsheets out there with varying degrees of quality that can at least point you in the right direction. Conversely, if this setup is making you a ton of money and you see an opportunity to expand, that is not the worst idea in the world. Either way, I wish you the best of luck.