EMEA Base Oil Price Report


If possible, base oil trade across Europe, the Middle East and Africa is slowing even more.

Demand is disappearing from all sectors of the industry, with many buyers stating that they will not be in the market until February, perhaps March. Some blending operations have announced that they are shutting up shop at the end of this week and will not reopen for four weeks.

These moves are unprecedented; even during the COVID-19 pandemic, lubricant producers remained active this time of year, albeit while socially distancing. This year some have said they will use the festive period to conduct maintenance and repairs, which require only skeleton staffing.

Base oil prices have stuttered, weaker numbers being the drift of the day. Base oil refiners are becoming concerned at rising inventory levels, so some are offering discounts to move material out of tank before Dec. 31. For example, Poland’s Lotos in Gdansk held a sale tender that went unallocated and subsequently shifted tactics, offering quantities of API Group I grades to traders in order to move stocks during December. Prices offered are listed under the European Group I export section below.

Mol’s refinery in Szazhalombatta, Hungary, encountered a problem in one of its crude oil distillation units. Technically that does not adversely affect base oil production, but with demand so low, the company is not overly concerned about having sufficient product to cover orders for the rest of the year.

Crude oil prices weakened again, throwing a spanner into efforts by Saudi Arabia and Russia to bolster prices by limiting production. These moves have been relatively unsuccessful as demand has faltered in major markets such as China, and as other OPEC+ members keep their taps fully open.

The divergent approaches have caused a rift in the cartel and may lead to further argument. It is difficult to see how a player such as Saudi Arabia can convince other member states to limit exports when many of these countries depend on crude revenues to support struggling economies.

Dated deliveries of Brent crude fell approximately $3 the past week to $75.75 per barrel, for February front month settlement. West Texas Intermediate did likewise, slipping to $71.15/bbl, still for January front month.

Low-sulfur gas oil prices were down $15 per metric ton from a week earlier but were even lower last week before rallying Monday to $778/t, still for December front month. All of these prices were established from London ICE trading late Dec. 11.


Group I export trade remains insignificant around Europe for two reasons. First, producers do not have large surplus quantities of these grades to offer for large export cargoes. Second, traders from both side of the Atlantic are relying on excess stocks from the United States to cover traditional export destinations such as West Africa, the Middle East and India. 

The sale tender from Gdansk remains unsold due to low bids, so Lotos is now trying to move the material through traders. Prices are lower than in European markets, so this availability is being aimed at “export” destinations, but may end up in Northwestern Europe or the United Kingdom if the grades splits are right. Prices were heard at $890/t for solvent neutral 150, $970/t for SN500 and $1,230/t for bright stock, all on an FOB basis ex Gdansk.

Eni announced that its Livorno refinery will close for twenty days starting Jan. 4. It is not known why this stoppage is taking place, but there are obviously continuing issues somewhere at the facility. The refinery is building inventories to cover demand throughout the shutdown.

Prices for European Group I exports take account of numbers being offered out of Gdansk. SN150 is assessed between $890/t and $955/t, SN500 at $970/t-$1,045/t and bright stock at $1,230/t-$1,325/t, depending on quantities available.

Prices for Group I sales within Europe remain static as November levels were rolled over into this month. There is clear downward pressure, though, with offers being subject to counters and requests for discounts. Slowing demand is putting pressure on some suppliers to markdown in order to lower inventories before the end of the year. However, buyers are not looking to take large quantities of Group I base oils until into 2024.

With finished lubricant demand forecast to be so poor early next year, some players are becoming concerned for business in 2024, commenting that some operations could be in trouble if demand does not start to improve by spring. Many lube blenders are operating on fine margins that are not sustainable in the longer term. Costs have increased exponentially without matching increases in selling prices.

Prices are showing weaker but SN150 remains in short supply, hence this grade is assessed in a wide range at €1,010/t-€1,120/t. SN500 is at €1,195/t-€1,310/t and bright stock also in a wide range at €1,260/t-€1,460/t. The highs for these ranges are from one Mediterranean supplier, but it is believed that these levels are almost akin to posted prices that are discounted when sales are made.

The euro’s exchange rate to the U.S. dollar posted at $1.0746 Monday. Due to widening ranges, the price differential between domestic and export prices is adjusted to €70/t-€245/t, exports being lower.

European Group II prices are starting to wobble, basically due to weaker demand in December. Erosion has set in following the large and hikes at the end of October, which until now had been supported.

The increases were required to reset the Group II base oil premium over diesel, which at the time had fallen to an all-time low. Diesel prices were higher, over $900/t, and refiners were unhappy at the small premium of around $50/t for the average Group II price. As predicted last week, trade is slowing going through December and may not pick up until well into January.

Discounts are being applied to any sales that are taking place, with larger buyers able to negotiate substantial reductions from the recent high prices.

The importer that had lower prices than the rest of the market did not increase prices from Dec. 1. Its prices are still well below other competitors, but it is considered that this supplier is running low on stocks in tank, since an import cargo from the U.S. was postponed from loading during November so that the cargo may not arrive into Europe until the second half January. The supplier may take advantage of having the material on the high seas on Dec. 31, minimizing year-end tax liabilities.

Market share is all important right now, with incumbent suppliers defending their business against buyers moving to alternative suppliers at lower pricing. The alternatives are fewer now, with established suppliers holding their market position.

Prices are unchanged this week at €1,150/t-€1,220/t ($1,240/t-$1,345/t) for 100 neutral, 150N and 220N and at €1,325/t-€1,365/t ($1,430/t-$1,475/t) for 600N. These values apply to a large range of Group II base oils from European, the U.S., Asia-Pacific and Red Sea sources, imported in bulk and in flexi-tanks.

In the European market, 100N and 150N are typically priced higher than 220N due to demand and generally higher usage of the two lighter grades, due in part to the lack of Group I lighter neutrals. Availability of the latter is now improving, but many buyers have made the switch to Group II and experienced benefits of using higher grade oils. 

There is a general move around for buyers of Group III base oils to move to purchasing on a spot basis rather than accept monthly or quarterly quantities on contract. With a wide choice of suppliers particularly on partly-approved products, buyers now have a flexibility to purchase smaller quantities more often, protecting cash flow and keeping down borrowing costs.

Group III prices are still subject to erosion with demand weakening as December goes by. The markets are seeing plentiful avails of both fully-approved grades from Spain and partly-approved products from AsiaPac and Middle East Gulf sources.

Reports of Chinese producers contacting traders to take quantities of Group III base stocks into the European market, with a couple of traders taking up the baton, by trying a few flexies of the stocks into the European mainland. These imports will arrive into Europe during February, ad it will be interesting to see how this new trade fares.

Prices will be very competitive and may contribute to further erosion of current prices around the European arena. Theoretically prices could be up to $150/t lower than present numbers from incumbent suppliers, but it would be unusual for traders to give away margin to merely undercut market prices. 

The differential between fully-approved and partly-approved Group III base oils continues to narrow, but still remains a bugbear for many buyers. 

More suppliers are turning to offering price firm deals for either three-or six-month periods starting at some time in 2024. Levels at which firm offers have been made have yet to be disclosed by buyers who are still negotiating.

Prices for Group III oils with partial slates of finished product approvals or without approvals are unchanged this week at €1,350/t-€1,455/t for 4 and 6 centiStoke oils and at €1,335/t-€1,400/t for 8 cSt, all on an FCA basis ex Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam or Northwestern Europe.

Re-refined 4 cSt is assessed at €1,350/t-€1,525/t, on the basis of sales ex storage in Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam. Previously prices were on at FCA basis ex the rerefinery in Germany, which added transportation costs of €30/t-€50/t depending on quantity and distance.

Prices for fully-approved Group III base oils from Spain are also maintained this week, but with blenders reluctant to make commitments to buy quotas of fully-approved Group III base stocks, due to the still large price differential. It is considered that the move to spot buying will be most prominent in this part of the market.

Four and 6 cSt grades are assessed at €1,665/t-€1,700/t, while small quantities of 8 cSt oils are assessed at €1,645/t-€1,660/t. All of these prices are on an FCA basis sales ex hubs in Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, Northwestern Europe or Spain.

Baltic and Black Seas

Russian/Belarus traders continue to offer cargoes of Russian export barrels to prospective buyers in Nigeria. There are still unknowns as to how these cargoes would be loaded, with the material going into shore storage in Riga or Liepaja. This report has made inquiries through European Union sources to request clarification on the possible transit of Russian exports through an EU country. The position is that as long as the rail cars are sealed and discharged into dedicated storage facilities, then transit through an EU country is permitted as long as the material in question is not destined for an EU or any other allied country. Shipping details are to be disclosed and the shore tanks have to be totally empty, following loading. The inspector’s report is to be logged with the relevant authorities.

This is a similar practice to base oils routing through Lithuania, going into storage in Svetly in Kaliningrad. However, the same rules are not applicable to material going into tank in Svetly since Kaliningrad is a Russian enclave in the Baltic. 

The other Nigerian cargo that might come through Lukoil, and which would load out of Svetly, has been put on hold due to a number of problems encountered by sellers. The delay is put down to working out how to grant extended credit along with the problems of payment being received in local naira.

FOB prices for SN 150 and SN 500 ex-Baltic are now estimated at around $795/t for SN 150, with SN 500 around $810/t. A blended SN 900 could have an FOB price of around $840/t, depending on which heavy grades are used in the blend.

Lotos and PK Orlen issued a sale tender for 4,500 tons in total, comprised of 3,000 tons of SN 500 and 1,500 tons of bright stock. The tender was cancelled, and when this happened previously, the tender was re-issued a couple of weeks later. It is believed that Lotos have turned it around and have offered preferred traders prices and quantities for prompt December loading. The prices are attractive and are listed elsewhere in this report.

A trader looking to take a Group I cargo into the United Kingdom is negotiating with the producer, and now that SN 150 is available, this may encourage a sale.

Turkish buyers seem to have given up on obtaining a cargo of European quality Group I base oils, and now with Livorno refinery going down in January, options are even more limited. Greek sellers have basically abandoned offers into the Turkish market because all attempts to supply barrels into Gebze or Derince were declined due to prices being too high. 

The Turkish base oil market is filled with quantities of Russian imports of SN 150 and SN 500. Additionally, there may also be smaller quantities of Russian quality bright stock and SN 1200, and solvent neutral SN 180 and SN 350 grades available from Uzbekistan.

Imported Russian Group I base oil prices are maintained this week, with sources in Istanbul giving CIF indication prices for SN 150 at around €875/t, with SN 500 around €895/t.

Tupras production has restarted, but no details of availabilities have been received from the refinery, but the prices which were in existence prior to the shutdown are apparently still valid and are quoted as below.

Prices for SN 150 are at $1,166/t (Tl 24,519), SN 500 at $1,227/t (Tl 27,024) and bright stock at $1,450/t. Prices in Turkish lira are ex-rack plus a loading charge of Tl 5,150/t.

Group II prices ex-tank are maintained, with levels around €1,235/t-€1,280/t for the three lower vis grades – 100N, 150N and 220N – with 600N at €1,455/t-€1,500/t. Supplies of Group II grades may be sourced from the Red Sea, the U.S., South Korea or Rotterdam. Some traders are active in these supplies with material in flexies being delivered to Turkish receivers.

Partly-approved Group III base oils resold on an FCA basis, or on a truck- delivered basis, have prices remaining static, with Tatneft 4 cSt grade at €1,345/t. Supplies from the U.A.E., Bahrain and Asia-Pacific are assessed at €1,545/t-€1,585/t FCA, depending on quantities purchased.

Fully-approved Group III grades delivered into Gemlik from Spain have prices maintained at €1,865/t-€1,895/t FCA. Cargoes of 800 tons up to 2,000 tons from Repsol cover these requirements for a small number of blenders that require and can pay for access to fully-approved Group III base oils.

Middle East

Luberef operating out of Yanbu and Jeddah ramped up the frequency of large cargoes of both Group I and Group II base oils going into the west coast of India and the U.A.E. Cargoes of up to 20,000 tons are discharging in the U.A.E. and the west coast and east coast of India, although it was reported through shipping circles that there are fewer cargo movements this month, perhaps reflecting stock positions in Indian buyers’ premises for year-end reporting. Cargoes are also programmed into Sudan and Aqaba in Jordan, with smaller cargoes of bright stock from Yanbu moving into Alexandria in Egypt, covering the requirements under the Egyptian General Petroleum Corp. contract.

Middle East Gulf contacts have commented on the concerns and worries that are currently being aired by many in the U.A.E. at the moment. Sources report that direct Iranian involvement in the war in Gaza is not being considered at the moment, but proxy involvement through Hezbollah in Lebanon and Houthis in Yemen are real and are affecting transportation and delivery of goods being exported and imported to and from the U.A.E. The region remains on a state of high alert, should the conflict spread to other nations in the region.

There are multiple reports of shipping problems for supplies of finished lubricants moving out of the U.A.E. to markets in the Middle East Gulf, East Africa and the Red Sea. There are also delays for materials such as additives and base oils, which are transiting Suez and Red Sea waters. Container vessels have altered schedules and other vessels such as tankers have taken piracy precautions with armed guards on board a number of vessels. The risks are real following the high jacking of one vessel by Houthi rebels out of Yemen. Protection and indemnity insurance clubs have increased insurances for hull, cargo and crews, raising freight rates for all vessels using those waters.

There are delays to cargoes of Russian base oil, which would be loaded out of Limas terminal in Turkey. Turkish flagged vessels are not keen to take the route through Suez and the Red Sea to arrive into ports such as Hamriyah, Fujairah and Jebel Ali in the U.A.E. Offers for cargoes of up to 6,000 tons of two grades of Russian base stocks are being reassessed to take account of increasing freight rates. Receivers in the U.A.E. are looking at alternative supplies for Group I base oils and are checking out sources in India and the United States. Traders from Europe and the U.S. have sent offers for prompt loading, which could mean that any cargo would be on the high seas at year-end, thus not forming inventory in storage at either end of the voyage.

Lukoil and Litasco are offering Russian Group I base oils to regular receivers in the U.A.E., with most of the supplies originating from Volgograd refinery, transited and reloaded from Limas terminal in Turkey. A viable alternative is to load large cargoes out of Svetly in Kaliningrad such as cargoes for Singapore.

Russian base oil delivered prices have risen due to freight increases. It is assumed that sellers have the flexibility to reduce FOB levels to mitigate potential rises to CIF prices. Prices remain around $875/t for SN 150, with $895/t for quantities of SN 500. Quantities are discharged into Hamriyah port in various sized cargoes dependant on available vessels.

The U.S. arbitrage appears to be open again after closing for a few weeks when FOB prices jumped to recent highs. With growing stocks and inventories U.S. suppliers have been keen to strike deals for cargoes for U.A.E. and west coast of India, although reports of completed deals have yet to be heard. One advantage for vessels moving out of U.S. Gulf Coast or U.S. Atlantic Coast is that they have choice of routing by either going through the Suez Canal or sailing around the Cape. The southerly voyage is longer but does not involve transiting Suez and the Red Sea.

Group III suppliers Adnoc and Bapco have loaded a number of cargoes for the west coast of India and mainland China. There appears to be a dip in the number of cargoes moving to Europe from both Adnoc and Stasco, with European markets awash with Group III material from various sources. There may be potential freight rate increases for European and U.S. cargoes coming out of the Middle East Gulf due to War and Piracy Risk insurances and security risks due to transiting Red Sea and Suez.

Netbacks for partly-approved base oils from Al Ruwais and Sitra remain unchanged with selling prices now steady in Europe, and stable in India and the U.S.

Netbacks are therefore assessed at $1,410/t-$1,455/t, for 4 cSt, 6 cSt and 8 cSt partly-approved and non-approved Group III base oils.

Netbacks for the available gas-to-liquid Group III+ base oils from Ras Laffan in Qatar are also maintained at around $1,520/t-$1,575/t. Levels are being assessed on information gleaned from Singapore traders and resellers active in Europe.

Netback levels are established from distributors’ selling prices, less estimated marketing, margins, handling and freight costs.

Group II base oils resold FCA in the U.A.E. may be sourced from European, U.S., Asia-Pacific and Red Sea producers. These base oils are sold either ex- tank U.A.E., or on a truck-delivered basis within the U.A.E. and Oman.

Prices are maintained again with levels at $1,565/t-$1,595/t for the light vis grades 100N, 150N and 220N, with 600N at $1,695/t-$1,760/t. The high ends of the ranges refer to road tank wagon deliveries to buyers in the U.A.E. and Oman.


Shipping agency sources in Durban confirmed the large European base oil cargo enroute to Durban for discharge. The vessel apparently still has options for delivering part cargo into Mombasa in addition to the main cargo going into Durban, this could mean an increase in the size of the cargo, perhaps up to 25,000 tons in total. It was suggested that deliveries to Mombasa and Dar-es-Salaam will be organized using vessels navigating the Cape via Durban to avoid Suez and Red Sea passage.

There may be potential for traders to purchase Group I material from the U.S. due to changes in pricing, suppliers moving long and availabilities out of the U.S. Gulf Coast and U.S. Atlantic Coast. Regular lifters are not keen on re-entering the Nigerian market at the moment due to all the problems of handling a base oil cargo going into Nigeria. So there may be a delay while traders take stock and decide on which course of action to take.

Offers from a Belarus trader for a Russian export cargo have been received but no news has been heard of a completed deal. There will be the usual set of problems to overcome such as payment and credit terms, and this may be holding back the cargo. Both parties would prefer to have the cargo on the high seas at year end for obvious reasons

The other Russian base oil cargo from Svetly may still go ahead but no one can put any dates on when this might happen. The cargo size remains unknown, since there has been no vessel identified. A vessel could theoretically load any quantity of up to 18,000 tons of three Group I grades –  SN 150, SN 500 and SN 900. 

Financing problems continue, with the naira exchange rate with the dollar being a principal nightmare. That is due to payments for the cargoes being made locally in local currency, with rates moving all the time, and the naira having to be converted to dollars on the black market.

With Livorno declaring a twenty day downtime for January, this rules out any chance of a prompt cargo loading from this source.

CFR Apapa prices remain as advised in the last report. Prices are confirmed at around $975/t for SN 150, $1,020/t for the SN 500 and SN 900 at around $1,145/t.

Ray Masson is director of Pumacrown Ltd., a trader and broker of petroleum products in London, U.K. Contact him directly at pumacrown@email.com.

Lubes’n’Greases shall not be liable for commercial decisions based on the contents of this report.

Archived base oil price reports can be found through this link: https://www.lubesngreases.com/category/base-stocks/other/base-oil-pricing-report/

Historic and current base oil pricing data are available for purchase in Excel format.

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