Weekly EMEA Base Oil Price Report


Base oil markets across the European, Middle Eastern and African regions are generally quiet, with demand subdued in many areas for all types of base stocks.

Prices are softer for all grades as producers try to move stocks out of storage, but they are meeting resistance from buyers reluctant to take larger quantities of product.

European markets normally show a degree of strength at this time of year as major industries waken from their winter lulls and begin the build-up to spring and summer, which are busier. But the uptick is not happening this year, perhaps due to big economies such as Germany, France and the United Kingdom bordering on recessions. Mediterraneaniterranean countries are in no better shape, with Spain, Italy and Greece all suffering from downturns in trade.

The wars in Ukraine and the Middle East are also dampening aspirations of changing times as there are few signs of either conflict ending soon. Likewise, Houthi attacks on shipping vessels continue to disrupt shipping.

The first rerouted cargoes of base oil from the Middle East Gulf will begin arriving in Europe during the next few weeks, and this will massively boost availabilities of API Group III base oils hitting that market. This sudden influx of material may take some months to move, exerting renewed downward pressure on prices.

Group I news around Europe is concentrated on the imminent closure of the base oil plant at Eni’s Livorno, Italy, refinery. Availabilities are poor now that production is running down. Only relatively small quantities of bright stock are being offered for an export sale. This will be difficult to move quickly, perhaps other than to Greek buyers, who traditionally took quantities of bright stock on a regular basis from this refinery.

Italian blenders are looking to Spanish sellers for quantities of Group I base oil, but these sources will probably not be able to cover all demand. The move to alternative suppliers has boosted prices for Group I grades in the region and may continue to exert upward pressure.

Crude oil remains firm, with prices for dated deliveries of Brent crude steady now above $83 per barrel. This week’s announcement that OPEC+ members will extend production cutbacks for another three months will shorten crude markets.

Russia said it will limit output by 471,000 barrels per day, whilst Saudi Arabia will maintain a million-barrel-per-day curb imposed last year. Other producers such as Kuwait, Iraq and Algeria will also support the cutbacks, trying to bolster prices. The Russian cutbacks will have to be seen to be believed, with continuing large quantities of crude going into the Chinese and Indian markets.

On Monday dated deliveries of Brent crude posted at $83.85 per barrel, now for May front month settlement, around $2 higher than last week. West Texas Intermediate crude rose more to $80.20/bbl, still for April front month, narrowing the crack against Brent.

Low-sulfur gasoil prices remained steady, coming in at $836 per metric ton, for March front month. All of these prices were obtained from London ICE trading late March 4.


European Group I export prices remain soft but the lows of the ranges were established when two cargoes loaded from Livorno, which will probably not be repeated. Ranges here thus are narrowed this week by removing those exceptionally low prices.

With only bright stock available presently, it is not known if further quantities of base oil will become available before production totally ceases. The chances are that the bright stock will be the last available Group I base oils from the site.

Spanish offers for export sales from Europe have been withdrawn in light of demand taking off in Italy for new sources of Group I stocks. Other offers could be made from Gdansk, Poland, after Lotos advised of availabilities that could go into the export market.

The investigation by regulators into the merger between Lotos and PK Orlen continues, but officials have released no details about their focus. Some observers have speculated there could be concerns about creation of an oil refining monopoly in the country, and that the merger could be blocked. More news is awaited.

Hungarian Group I producer Mol reconfirmed that its refinery in Szazhaolmbatta will go into a maintenance turnaround at the beginning of June until mid-July.

Prices for Group I exports from Europe are adjusted this week, taking out the recent lows from Livorno. Solvent neutral 150 is assessed between $735 per ton and $810/t, SN500 at $845/t-$930/t and bright stock at $1,095/t-$1,195/t.

Prices for Group I sales within Europe are continually under price with discounting confirmed for some prices effective March 1. Many sellers tried to roll over February prices into March, but these proposals were firmly rebuffed by buyers. There have been downward moves of between €20/t-€50/t. Buyers are tempting sellers, saying that they are interested in larger quantities and are looking to restock inventories that have been almost entirely run down.

Buyers continue to use the spot market rather than contracted volumes. Demand for finished lubricants is dismal, and some blenders commented that they are cutting some production lines and may move to a shorter work week.

Prices for Group I sales within the region have moved lower from this week, based on confirmation by a number of buyers. SN150 is now at €875/t-€945/t, SN500 at €920/t-€985/t and bright stock at €1,115/t-€1,195/t.

The dollar exchange rate to the euro is static, posting on Monday at $1.085. The average price differential between Group I exports from Europe and sales within the region is reduced this week due to export values rising and those for sales within Europe coming down. The differential is €120/t-€185/t, exports being lower.

On the Group II front, the ExxonMobil refinery in Rotterdam is moving starting a turnaround, although it is believed that the company laid away stocks to cover demand from regular customers. 

European Group II prices have come under pressure from buyers but have not fallen yet. Buyers are insisting that European levels are too high compared with other markets in Asia and the United States.

Demand remains weak and has not returned as was forecast by the market at the end of 2023. Availabilities remain positive even against the possible tightening caused by the production interruption in Rotterdam. There are increasing quantities of imports from the U.S. because of poor demand in that market.

Imports from Asia-Pacific sources have halted because the European market is not able to absorb additional supplies now. The European market is finely balanced in supply and demand terms, and any sudden influx of material from Asia-Pacific could cause downward pressure on prices.

The Red Sea situation has also dampened enthusiasm and opportunities for suppliers to ship to Europe from Asia-Pacific.

The Group II premium to diesel remains crucial but is relatively static at the moment. The current premium is said to be acceptable to producers, and since a sudden shift in diesel prices looks unlikely based on the crude oil situation, there is no current pressure from that direction.

Group II prices are slightly lower this week at €1,020/t-€1,065/t ($1,105- $1,155/t) for 100 neutral and 150 neutral, €1,055/t-€1,100/t ($1,145/t-$1,195/t) for 220N and at €1,175/t-€1,230/t ($1,270/t-$1,345/t) for 600N.

These prices apply to a range of Group II oils from Europe, the U.S. and Red Sea sources, all imported in bulk. In the European Group II market, 100N and 150N grades can sometimes be priced higher than 220N due to demand.

There is a quandary opening up for Group III markets around Europe. The costs of shipping material from the Far East and Middle East Gulf are rising, and suppliers, of course, would like to pass those costs onto customers. The European market, however, is being exposed to a rising number of imports from producers keen to maximize tap the lucrative market.

The greater the quantities around the market the greater the price pressure will build, and the market could see significant discounting taking place just to move stocks. The market is bracing for the arrival of a number of cargoes – possibly totaling around 60,000 tons during March – and it may take distributors some time to move the glut without discounts or incentives.

One or two suppliers from Asia-Pacific still offer lower prices than the mainstream market, although in one case specifications and quality are lower than material from the Middle East Gulf and Malaysia.

European prices for Group III oils with partial slates of finished lubricant approvals or without approvals are unchanged this week at €1,555/t-€1,595/t for 4 and 6 centiStoke and at €1,565/t-€1,600/t for 8 cSt, all on an FCA basis ex Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam or Northwestern Europe. Values for rerefined 4 cSt are unchanged at €1,485/t-€1,520/t, on an FCA basis ex rerefinery in Germany.

Group III grades with full slates of approvals are assessed at €1,735/t-€1,770/t for 4 and 6 cSt and at €1,725/t-€1,755/t for 8 cSt, all on an FCA basis ex hubs in Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, Northwestern Europe and Spain.

Baltic and Black Seas

Following the news of the closure of the terminal in Svetly in Kaliningrad, it was confirmed that no Russian base oils are moving by rail through Lithuania into Kaliningrad. This would mean that more Russian exports could be conducted through facilities in the Black Sea facilities, although it is possible that the infrastructure to make this work may not yet be in place – it may take longer to construct storage to accommodate an increase in base oil exports through the Black Sea. Where this would take place is not known, but bases in Turkey could be extended.

With Russian cargoes being given safe passage by Houthi rebels through the Bab-al-Mandeb Strait, it can be expected that Russian exporters will try to ramp up trade into the Middle East Gulf and Far East receivers, offering exceptionally low prices. Vessels and cargoes will have to be indentified as Russian and need to notify Houthi authorities prior to a vessel’s arrival in the Strait.

Polish produced material is available in Gdansk, but quantities are still not confirmed. It was rumored that a parcel of two or three Group I grades was to be around 4,000-5,000 tons in total. This potential cargo will be offered to approved traders.

Russian FOB prices for SN 150 and SN 500 from St Petersburg and the Black Sea are indicated at low levels around $505/t-$520/t for SN 150, with SN 500 around $530/t. SN 900 can be made available at around $565/t, using SN 1200 and SN 500 to blend to obtain the required viscosity. These levels are assessed on the evidence of very low landed prices in discharge ports, such as Singapore, Gebze and Apapa.

Turkish base oil markets are dull. A number of blenders comment that they have no or little demand for finished lubricants in their own market or in export destinations around Turkey. Lower prices lubes are flooding markets in Iraq and Jordan, with material coming out of the United Arab Emirates. The only hitch at this time is getting hold of sufficient containers and vessel to carry supplies into these markets.

Inflation levels are still a major constraint in Turkey. With the interest rate for the Central Bank now moving upwards to around 50% per annum Russian base oil imports are being conducted on a government-to-government basis, meaning the Turkish market is awash with Russian production.

Russian imports of SN 150 and SN 500 are moving from Saint Petersburg, maintaining the flow of material into the Turkish market through Gebze port.

Imported Russian Group I base oil prices are indicated on a CIF basis for SN 150 at around €610/t, with SN 500 around €630/t. These prices are exceptionally low, but Russian producers have flexibility when it comes to ex-refinery prices, which in some cases appear to be arbitrary and are not based on any Western-styled barrel economics.

Tupras stopped production of base oil again at Izmir refinery. The stoppage reason is not identified, but Tupras re-issued the same prices. To what these numbers refer is anyone’s guess because it is communicated that there are no avails at this time.

Levels are as follows ex-refinery: SN 150 is at $709/t (Tl 24,519), SN 500 at $791/t (Tl 27,024), with bright stock at $988/t (Tl 33,167). Prices in Turkish lira are ex-rack plus a loading charge of Tl 5,150/t. The U.S. dollars prices are falling due to devaluation of the Turkish lira, and the lira prices remain unchanged. 

Group II ex-tank prices remain unchanged at around €1,175/t-€1,195/t for the three lower vis grades – 100N, 150N and 220N – with 600N at €1,385/t-€1,475/t. Group II grades may be sourced from Red Sea, the United States, South Korea or Rotterdam. It is reported that there are problems for supplies from the Red Sea and South Korea due to the Red Sea situation.

Partly-approved Group III base oils are available FCA, or on a truck delivered basis, where an extra charge of around €35/t-€55/t for “local” deliveries will apply. Russian Tatneft 4 cSt grade is priced at around €1,420/t. Supplies that previously arrived from the U.A.E., Bahrain and Asia-Pacific remain at €1,575/t-€1,620/t FCA. It remains unclear how supplies from the Midle East Gulf and Far East will be affected. It may become uneconomic for cargoes  to be re-routed around the Cape, then sailing through the Mediterranean before delivering Group III base oils into Turkey. There may be alternative logistics set up, such as feeding from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, following discharge of the larger cargo.

Fully-approved Group III grades delivered into Gemlik from Spain and resold on an FCA basis have prices maintained at €1,920/t-€1,965/t FCA.

Middle East

Red Sea loadings out of Yanbu and Jeddah are having problems, with reports that cargo movements were significantly down as a result of delays and cancellations due to the Houthi attacks on shipping. Luberef has been unable to find suitable tonnage or enough vessels to move cargoes of base oils to regular receivers in India, Pakistan and the U.A.E.

Vessels are making the trip through the Suez Canal to discharge chemicals and other clean petroleum into Yanbu, Jeddah and other north Red Sea ports. They are then loading base oils from Yanbu and Jeddah for ports in Sudan, Jordan and Egypt.

Middle East Gulf regions have reports from the U.A.E. that confirm that Saudi supplier Luberef is experiencing shipping problems for large cargoes going into ports such as Fujairah, Jebel Ali and Hamriyah. This may be due to a lack of vessels prepared to make the transit through the Bab-al-Mandeb Strait. One U.K.- registered bulk carrier was hit a few weeks back by a missile, and now the vessel is sinking, with salvage teams unable to assist because of the continuing dangers of Houthi attacks. It is unknown what depth the channel is where the vessel is going down, but the sinking could pose a navigational problem. 

With safe passage granted, Russian base oils are being delivered into the U.A.E. and have now prices indicated at around $610/t for SN 150, with $640/t for quantities of SN 500, with a large parcel of up to 15,000 tons either loading out of Saint Petersburg or Limas terminal in Turkey for regular buyers in Hamriyah. This cargo may be re-exported to Nigeria, as has happened some time last year, when a large parcel of around 8,000 tons with three grades – SN 150, SN 500 and SN 900 – was deemed to be of U.A.E. origin and was sold to receivers in Lagos.

Group III suppliers Adnoc and Bapco loaded cargoes for Indian receivers in Mumbai anchorage and also for distributors in mainland China. One concern for U.A.E.- and Bahrain-produced Group III barrels is that foreign imports from one supplier in South Korea are trashing the local U.A.E. market with reselling prices for 4 centiStoke material offered at $950/t FCA Hamriyah. The specification of the offered 4 cSt product is lower than other comparable material.

Netbacks for partly-approved base oils from Al Ruwais and Sitra are reduced on the basis of extra costs of shipping to U.S. and Europe, with selling prices remaining in the same ranges. With new cargoes arriving and having sailed around the Cape, freight rates are much higher. Distributors are responsible for chartering vessels to carry cargoes from Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, so it is assumed that with distributor margins remaining the same, FOB levels will have fallen.

Netbacks are now indicated at $1,460/t-$1,510/t, for the 4 cSt, 6 cSt and 8 cSt partly-proved and non-approved Group III grades. Netbacks for GTL Group III+ base oils from Ras Laffan in Qatar remain at around $1,475/t-$1,525/t.

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

Group II base oils are sold ex-tank in the U.A.E., or on a delivered basis by truck in the U.A.E. and Oman. Prices are maintained, with levels at $1,620/t-$1,685/t for 100N, 150N and 220N, with 600N at $1,735/t-$1,795/t. The high ends of the ranges refer to road tank wagon deliveries to buyers in the U.A.E. and Oman.


South Africa shipping agency sources suggested that another large base oil cargo could load during April for Durban. The size of the parcel has yet to be confirmed, but it is considered that the total could be around 19,000 tons. The current cargo is comprised of around 18,000 tons of various base oils and easy chemicals. There has been no further news on plans for a Singapore option to deliver to receivers in Mombasa and Dar-es-Salaam.

West African reports news of the arrival of a vessel carrying cargo that will supply three receivers in Conakry, Abidjan, and Tema.  The cargo is made up of around 10,000 tons of three grades of Group I base oils out of Fawley.

Cargoes have been arriving into Apapa from a number of sources during the last few months, with Singapore, South Korea and U.A.E. sources being nominated, as well as the usual shipments from the U.S. Gulf Coast and U.S. Atlantic Coast. A cargo loaded out of Hamriyah in the U.A.E., comprised of Russian base oils. The cargo may have been specifically purchased for re-delivery to Apapa because the parcel would have included a quantity of SN 900.

The large 18,000-ton cargo will arrive into Apapa in the next week or so. The vessel is on the water enroute to Apapa from the U.S., with the cargo being sold to multiple receivers in Nigeria. The cargo will arrive in the next couple of weeks for discharge.

The naira exchange rate continues to be a massive impediment to supplying and getting paid for parcels of base oils into the Nigerian market. Access to dollars is extremely difficult – sellers have to accept naira payments and then exchange the local currency on the black market to obtain dollars.

CFR Apapa prices are given as indications only and are around $930/t-$950/t for SN 150, $1,000/t-$1,020/t for SN 500 and SN 900 at around $1,040/t-$1,060/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.

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