Weekly EMEA Base Oil Price Report


With Ramadan coming to an end across the Middle East, base oil trading is expected to pick up, although perhaps not until after the Eid al Fitr holiday which starts immediately following the end of Ramadan on April 9.

Other regions are also expecting an uptick in activity following the Easter break in Europe as many buyers look to the market to obtain blending material for anticipated sales of finished lubricants, demand for which is forecast to start to rise during April.

West Africa remains subdued, with politics and economics combining to create confusion and inefficiency that keeps parts of it from developing. But South and East African base oil markets are strong and appear to be moving in the right direction, with a large number of imported cargoes reaching ports such as Durban, South Africa, Mombasa, Kenya, and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, from where various types of base oils are distributed to blending operations across the hinterlands.

Cargoes are originating from Europe, at all times avoiding Red Sea transits where Houthi rebels still target merchant marine vessels that they deem may have links to Israel, the United States or the United Kingdom. Cargoes are also coming into African ports from the Middle East Gulf and Asia-Pacific sources by simpler routes that do not involve lengthy detours.

API Group I availabilities in Europe are moving tighter, and producers of these grades are unable to supply quantities for export sales. Even concentrating just on domestic markets, some suppliers are announcing shortages of particular grades, especially heavier neutrals, further shortening up this market.

A number of maintenance turnarounds are underway or due to start in the next few weeks, and this will tighten local markets even more. Some lube blenders are switching to Group II base stocks to avoid supply disruptions during what many perceive to be the busiest time of the year.

Group II availabilities in Europe are good. Local material still being available amidst a major turnaround at Rotterdam, and imported material from the U.S. is peaking thanks to large cargoes arriving from U.S. Gulf Coast sources.

Group III availabilities in Europe remain ample, but large quantities are hitting the European market as replenishment shipments arrive from Asia-Pacific and Middle East Gulf suppliers.

With the war in Gaza continuing and conditions for Palestinian civilians deteriorating, there are fears that Iran may escalate the conflict – especially after a missile attack on its consulate in Damascus killed prominent leaders. This fear prompted crude oil prices to spike to new recent highs last week, pushing Brent crude above $90 per barrel.

Dated deliveries of Brent hit $90.50/bbl Monday, for June front month settlement, more than $5 higher than the level posted a week earlier. West Texas Intermediate crude climbed more than $3 during the period to $86.45/bbl, still for May front month.

Low-sulfur gasoil prices climbed around $40 to $853 per metric ton, still for April front month. All of these prices were obtained from London ICE trading late April 8.


Group I demand continues to pick up around Europe, thanks to rising demand for finished lubes. A number of turnarounds are affecting availabilities, and with maintenance schedules continuing over the next three months, availabilities could be affected. Refineries involved are in Spain, the Netherlands, Greece and Hungary, so impacts will be widespread.

Group I cargoes may land into Europe from the U.S. and from Yanbu and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, supplementing production within the region. Europe may soon become a net importer of Group I base oils, in contrast with its previous position as a net exporter featuring sources in Livorno, Italy, Aghio, Greece, Gdansk, Poland and Algeciras, Spain.

Group I prices have firmed, but diesel prices have been rising at a faster rate, putting new pressure on the Group I premium to diesel. Group I values are firmer this week at between €945/t and €985/t for solvent neutral 150, €990/t-€1,045/t for SN500 and €1,120/t-€1,235/t for bright stock.

The dollar exchange rate to the euro moved upwards to $1.08279 on Monday.

European Group II prices are relatively stable at the moment, although rising crude and diesel values should be causing upward pressure. A major maintenance shutdown is underway in Rotterdam and scheduled to be completed later this month. Concerns that the event would tighten European Group II supply appear to be unfounded; buyers confirm that they are receiving adequate quantities from their supplier.

Group II values in Europe remain higher than in other regions, but variations are narrowing, and that along with diesel prices could create upward pressure.

Group II prices are described as stable or steady at €1,020/t-€1,065/t ($1,105/t-$1,155/t) for 100 neutral, 110N and 150N, €1,065/t-€1,100/t ($1,145/t-$1,195/t) for 220N and €1,155/t-€1,200/t ($1,270/t-$1,365/t) for 600N. These prices apply to a range of oils from European, U.S. and Red Sea sources, all imported in bulk.

Group III cargoes from Asia-Pacific and the Middle East Gulf are arriving into European hubs, having incurred higher transportation costs due to detours around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. Here again the shrinking premium to diesel – at the lowest level since the second quarter of 2022, when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drove crude above $130/bbl – also creates upward pressure.

However, the market looks to soon be awash with availabilities, and some producers encouraging their distributors to accept extra cargoes, so supply could exceed demand. It might be impossible to raise prices in such a situation, where one or two suppliers looking for market share could undercut the market.

The national strike in Finland, which finished on March 31 affected  operations for Neste’s refinery in Porvoo, and deliveries and supplies of fuels and base oils are only now getting back to normal. Information received from a number of sources confirmed that no real supply issues affected the Group III base oils coming out of this refinery, since sufficient stocks had been laid down to cover any immediate short supplies. But Neste has a long-term maintenance program about to start, hence there could be unforeseen supply interruptions following the strike period.

European prices for Group III oils with partial slates of finished lubricant approvals or without approvals moved slightly higher to €1,585/t-€1,620/t for 4 and 6 centiStoke oils and to €1,575/t-€1,610/t for 8 cSt, all on an FCA basis ex Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam or Northwestern Europe. Two suppliers continue to offer material at lower prices, but these were also raised to €1,325/t-€1,385/t.

Re-refined 4 centiStoke and 6 cSt have also moved higher, not for the same reasons, but due to cost increases for collections of used lube oils. These grades are now priced at €1,475/t-€1,525/t, on an FCA basis ex rerefinery in Germany.

Prices for fully-approved are at €1,785/t-€1,820/t for 4 and 6 cSt and at €1,825/t-€1,835/t for 8 cSt, all on an FCA basis ex hubs in Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, Northwestern Europe and Spain.

Baltic and Black Seas

No reported cargoes have been recorded loading out of any Baltic ports, but there are talks in Nigeria that another large cargo of up to 10,000 tons of Russian export barrels is being assembled to load over the next couple of weeks. It is thought that shipping problems re finding suitable vessels to perform this voyage could be the hold-up. Parcels are getting very difficult to spot in advance of vessels being chartered. Ports being used to load are St Petersburg and Vyborg since the cessation of trading through Svetly terminal in Kaliningrad.

Russian cargoes that may move from the Baltic to the United Arab Emirates and Singapore are apparently to be given safe passage through the Bab-al-Mandeb Strait by Houthi rebels, but how this discretionary action is accomplished is anyone’s guess.

Lotos and PK Orlen are sending all production from Gdansk refinery into the domestic market in Poland or other eastern Europe markets. Previously, material from Gdansk found its way into northern Italian blending operations, but this has been denied as happening currently. Sources announced that domestic uptake is considerable, with turnarounds in nearby refineries either underway or about to start.

Russian FOB prices for SN 150 and SN 500 from Saint Petersburg have increased but are still at extremely low levels, although it has been communicated to this report that Russian prices had risen a couple of weeks back, realigning the numbers to $560/t-$575/t for SN 150.

Following the recent local elections in Turkey, there have been some major changes in government as the president, Mr. Erdogan, tries to shore up his political defenses against rival opposition parties that did better in the elections than his ruling franchise. Whether these actions will contain the inflationary rises and the rising interest rates is a matter for thought. They may just be bloodletting to appease the inner circle.

Turkish base oil markets continue to have a huge influx of Russian base oils, but with Russian prices rising, blenders have been trying to purchase European produced base stocks from sellers in Sicily, Valencia, or Aghio in Greece. But as have the Russian price moved upwards, so have mainstream producers’ tariffs, making any availabilities more expensive than previously.

Tupras from Izmir refinery maintain prices with levels ex-refinery as follows. Spindle oil is priced at $965/t (Tl 31,116), SN 150 at $907/t (Tl 29,269), SN 500 at $861/t (Tl 27,784) and bright stock at $1,028/t (Tl 33,167). Prices in Turkish lira are ex-rack plus a loading charge of Tl 5,150/t.

Group II ex-tank prices are maintained but could move upwards at any time due to feedstock increases. Currently, they are around €1,175/t-€1,195/t in respect of the three lower vis grades (100N, 150N and 220N), with 600N at €1,175/t-€1,475/t, having included the recent 600N cargo from Korea.

Group II grades may be sourced from the Red Sea, the United States, South Korea or Rotterdam, although supplies from South Korea may be restricted due to the Houthi problems in the Red Sea. Having mentioned the Red Sea situation, it is unknown how the 2,000 tons from Korea arrived into Gebze.

Partly-approved Group III base oils on an FCA basis has Tatneft continuing to import and resell its 4 centiStoke grade, being priced around €1,440/t. Supplies previously arrived from the U.A.E., Bahrain and Asia-Pacific remain at €1,575/t-€1,620/t FCA but supplies from the Middle East Gulf and the Far East will be badly affected. It may be uneconomic for cargoes to be re-routed via the Cape, then sail through the Mediterranean, before discharging in Turkey. Smaller feeder cargoes may load out of Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, following the discharge of the main cargo. This method of supply is considered to be marginal at best.

Fully-approved Group III grades from Cartagena in Spain are being delivered into Gemlik and resold on an FCA basis to local blenders requiring approvals for finished lubricants. Prices are increased to €1,960/t-€1,995/t FCA.

Middle East

Apart from Russian- and Chinese-registered vessels, Red Sea shipping traffic has become negligible due to the Houthi attacks on merchant marine vessels moving through the Bab-al-Mandeb Straits in the Red Sea. Shipping problems remain in loading base oils out of Yanbu and Jeddah for Luberef, with few, if any, vessels moving south through the Red Sea. Northbound cargoes have been loaded, but these are smaller and fewer than the large parcels that loaded out of Saudi ports. These cargoes are being shipped by vessels that have made the Suez transit south, then discharging and loading before making the return voyage. Parcels were delivered into Sudan, Jordan and Egypt, in addition to Group I cargoes moving into northwest Europe, being handled and resold in Europe by a Saudi Aramco affiliate.

Cargoes to the west coast of India and the U.A.E. remain problematic, with few vessels willing to risk Houthi attacks. The majority of owners have decreed that no vessels will enter the Red Sea or sail close to Aden, with protection and indemnity insurance clubs refusing to insure operations in that region.

Supplies of Group III base oils from Onsan in South Korea normally delivered to Yanbu in 5,000-ton parcels by sea will be under review. Parcels could be included in larger cargoes moving from Onsan, around the Cape, and discharging in Europe. A smaller cargo of 5,000 tons could then be loaded out of Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam for Yanbu, through Suez, avoiding the Houthi presence in the south of the Red Sea.

Middle East Gulf regions are expected to come to life, following the end of Ramadan and then the Eid holiday, which follows in the next few days. By the beginning of next week, blending operations in the Middle East Gulf and other Muslim countries will be re-emerging to start the new year.

The specter of the Houthi troubles still hangs over importers and exporters of base oils and finished lubricants to and from Middle East Gulf companies.  Sources in the U.A.E. confirm that Saudi cargoes from Luberef in Yanbu and Jeddah are being delayed or cancelled, with no large cargoes delivering into U.A.E. ports, such as Fujairah, Jebel Ali, Ras Al Khaimah and Hamriyah. Sources say that alternative arrangements are being considered by taking Group I cargoes from Indian suppliers and Group II cargoes from Asia-Pacific sources in Korea and Singapore. These arrangements are not simple to put together quickly, and they may be uneconomic to consider longer term.

Russian base oils delivered into the U.A.E. have had prices raised again, with these grades now indicated at around $710/t for SN 150, with $720/t for quantities of SN 500. A parcel of around 5,000 tons loaded from Limas terminal in Turkey for receivers in Hamriyah.

It has been heard that U.A.E. traders may look to buy a grade-specific Russian cargo of three base oils – SN 150, SN 500 and SN 900 – going into Hamriyah. The cargo would then be resold to an international trader, under a certificate of origin stating the cargo to be from the U.A.E. The secondary trader involved in other cargoes to Nigeria will re-export this cargo to Apapa.

Netback values for Group III exports from the Middle East Gulf for partly-approved base oils from Adnoc and Bapco are set to improve, on the basis that distributors are at least trying to raise selling prices in markets such as the U.S. and Europe. Whether these attempts to lift prices will be successful remains to be seen.

Netbacks are therefore now indicated at $1,485/t-$1,525/t for the 4 cSt, 6 cSt and 8 cSt partly-proved and non-approved Group III grades. These cargoes are being moved in parcels of 8,000-10,000 tons. Netbacks for Shell gas-to-liquid Group III+ base oils from Ras Laffan in Qatar are now put at around $1,500/t-$1,560/t due to larger cargo sizes of around 25,000 tons per parcel, contributing to relatively lower freight rates.

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

Group II base oils continue to sell ex-tank in the U.A.E. or on a truck-delivered basis in the U.A.E. and Oman. Prices are maintained, having been recently raised due to increased freight costs from the U.S. and Europe. No cargoes appear to be arriving from Yanbu. The market is tight, with demand rising after the Eid holiday. Buyers are looking at alternative sources, such as South Korea and Singapore, to cover this market. Levels are maintained at $1,685/t-$1,725/t for 100N, 150N and 220N, with 600N at $1,775/t-$1,825/t. The high ends of the ranges refer to road tank wagon deliveries to buyers in the U.A.E. and Oman.


From South Africa shipping agency sources, confirmation was received that a large European base oil cargo will load during the second half of April or early May, from Rotterdam and Fawley and will directly sail to Durban for discharge. The parcel will be around 19,000 tons of base oils and easy chemicals. Shipping inquiries are on the market.

West Africa reports contain news that another 9,000-10,000 tons cargo will load out of Fawley for receivers in Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, and Ghana. The Ghana delivery will be 5,000 tons of three Group I grades covering the Tema tender, successfully retained by a major.

The 8,000-10,000 tons cargo that loaded out of the Baltic with SN 150, SN 500 and SN 900 from a Russian refinery source will arrive into Apapa later this month. A Minsk based trader – one of only a few companies dealing in Russian base oil exports – will be handling the chartering of a vessel and the delivery of this parcel into receivers in Lagos. The same trader delivered a 6,000-tons cargo in January for the same receivers in Nigeria.

With the rumor that a Russian cargo may load out of the U.A.E. for Apapa, the reports that some Nigerian receivers were not keen to take Russian cargoes appears to be a misnomer. The principal factor is price, which will remain the most importance issue while Russian prices remain well below the main market.

There may be scope for a further large cargo from the U.S. to arrive into Nigeria in May or June, but prices will have to be adjusted higher. The problem is that Russian offers are pulling the market down and do not afford more sophisticated blenders in Nigeria access to better quality and higher specification base oils.

Current confirmed CFR Apapa prices are indicated in ranges at around $930/t-$950/t for SN 150, $1,000-$1,020/t for SN 500 and SN 900 at around $1,040/t-$1,060/t. These prices will have to rise for imports from mainstream producers in the U.S. It is anticipated that prices would have to rise by around $65/t-$85/t across the board.

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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