Weekly EMEA Base Oil Price Report


By far the biggest news this week was the Iranian rocket and drone attack on Israel Saturday, undertaken in response to Israel’s April 1 strike on Iran’s consulate in Damascus.

Like many, base oil market players braced for fallout and potential escalation of hostilities between the two nations, but early impacts seemed to be muted.

Governments, analysts and other observers offered a range of predictions about how events will play out, including the obvious possibility of Israel striking back, leading to escalation and a full-blown crisis in the Middle East and large-scale disruptions for crude oil markets.

Many sources in the base oil market predicted crude prices would rocket and that petroleum product prices would have to move upwards to take account of rising raw material costs. As of Monday though, crude had actually retreated slightly from last week, suggesting that the crisis has been overplayed and that risks to crude supplies are largely exaggerated, with producers still able to export and supply their receivers around the world. 

The West is urging Israel to show restraint when it comes to retaliation, since Saturday’s attack caused no casualties and no significant damage to Israel’s infrastructure. However, Israel’s intent is not yet clear. The world waits with bated breath.

Base oils have been largely unaffected and may continue to be insulated from any reactions to events. A jump in crude costs would normally push petroleum products – including base oil feedstocks – in the same direction, leading to upward price pressure on base oils. This is not happening yet, but the situation will be monitored on a daily basis to assess any possibilities for the markets to move.

Hostilities in Gaza and Ukraine continue unabated with Israel committed to the complete eradication of Hamas and Russia still intent on the illegal invasion of Ukraine. These conflicts are having a negative effect on many markets, not just those in close proximity, and are preying on many minds as to what lies in the future.

In Germany, UNITI’s annual Mineral Oil Technology Forum gets under way this week, with many players from the base oil industry in attendance. In the Middle East region, another base oil conference is about to commence in Dubai, bringing together participants from Asia-Pacific and India with Middle East Gulf locals. Following the Eid al Fitr holiday business is getting back to normal.

Base oil prices around Europe, the Middle East and Africa had been coming under pressure the past few weeks from rising diesel prices, but markets now appear to be in neutral, despite the geopolitical crises, relieving some of that previous pressure.

API Group I availability remains tight in Europe, where suppliers are concentrating on a regional market that offers higher selling prices than would possibly being considered for export. With few sellers having any sizeable quantities available, export destinations have turned to alternative sources to obtain cover their needs. West Africa for example, has turned to the United States, the Far East and the Middle East, apart from ExxonMobil shipments the supplies going into Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana.

Group II availability in Europe remains good as U.S. imports supplement local production. In the Middle East Gulf regions, Group II is tighter due to shipping problems encountered by suppliers from Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, and with a major maintenance shutdown underway at a South Korean refinery.

Group III availability is plentiful throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa, but longer voyage times and higher costs are affecting supply chain logistics for material moving into Europe from Asia-Pacific and Middle East Gulf sources. Cargoes that should have arrived during the first half of April are now expected early May.  

Crude oil values are softer by around $1-$2 since last week, despite expectations that prices would jump when markets opened Monday. Instead, they fell, perhaps reflecting considerations that crude supplies are so far largely unaffected by the Iranian attack on Israel. 

Dated deliveries of Brent crude were at $89.60 per barrel, for June front month settlement, after rising above $90 last week. West Texas Intermediate crude is reported at $84.95/bbl, still for May front month, down around $2.

Low-sulfur gasoil prices dipped around $30 per metric ton to levels seen two weeks ago. This product is currently trading at $820/t, now for May front month. All of these prices were obtained from London ICE trading late April 15.


The market for Group I exports from Europe is non-existent, with no suppliers able to offer large export style quantities of a range of grades. If such trade was occurring, values would be close to numbers for sales within the region, rather than at large discounts that existed not so long ago.

Suppliers and producers are keen to sell at high margins by selling into local blenders rather than clearing inventories. Inventories are not particularly high, with many suppliers short of one grade or another. Light neutrals are tight in Northern Europe, whilst heavier neutrals are in short around the Mediterranean.

Group I markets around Europe are becoming tighter even though almost all available material is staying in the region. Demand is not back to pre-COVID levels, which is just as well, given the availability situation. Prices are firmer, and imports from Yanbu and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, are now arriving. Cargoes are being organized by a South Korean subsidiary of Saudi Aramco, for a cargo of around 5,000 tons to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, to be sold on an FCA basis or delivered to blenders by truck and barges. The next cargo has been delayed and is now due toward the end of April.

A number of maintenance turnarounds are also limiting affecting availabilities, in addition to the March fire at ExxonMobil’s Port-Jerome, France, refinery, and the closing of Eni’s Group I plant in Livorno, Italy. Imports from a variety of sources may become the new norm.

Group I prices are firmer, with buyers keen to get hold of as much product as possible but too little in stock to cover all requirements. Prices are now at between €960/t and €995/t for solvent neutral 150, at €995/t-€1,060/t for SN500 and at €1,140/t-€1,245/t for bright stock. Some sellers are able to pitch prices at a higher level than others, depending on location and availability from more than one supplier.

The dollar exchange rate to the euro fell to $1.06391 as of Monday.

European Group II prices are showing a degree of stability. Buyers are trying to lock in supplies of Group II base oils at current prices, but suppliers are limiting availabilities to regular customers on an allocation basis. Upward pressure may remain after crude and feedstock values rose in early April, but the plateauing of diesel prices relieves it somewhat.

The maintenance turnaround in Rotterdam should wrap up in the next week or two, bringing production back to normal at this refinery. European prices are still higher than in other regions, although Asia-Pacific values climbed recently. The arbitrage to Europe has now closed for most Asian sources, even disregarding the impacts of shipping problems in the Red Sea.

Group II prices are steady this week at €1,020/t-€1,065/t, ($1,105/t-$1155/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 Group II base oils from European, U.S. and Red Sea sources, all imported in bulk. The Group II premium to diesel remains around the same level as last reported.

Group III cargoes from Asia-Pacific and the Middle East Gulf are starting to arrive into Europe, having incurred higher freight costs due to detours around the Cape of Good Hope. This creates some upward pressure on prices, but at the same time a trader is about to import quantities of Group III from China with prices offered at exceptionally low levels.

The product is not of gold standard when it comes to specifications and will hold no finished lubricant approvals. The first availabilities are believed to be arriving in flexies during the second half May or into June. The voyage time is reckoned now to be around 75 days instead of the normal 45.

A realistic scenario is that the market could be entering a period of oversupply, where some producers actively encourage their distributors to take in extra cargoes. Hiking prices could be very difficult in such an environment.

European prices for Group III oils with partial slates of finished lubricant approvals or without approvals are unchanged at €1,585/t-€1,620/t for 4 and 6 centiStoke oils and at €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 numbers – €1,325/t-€1,385/t on an FCA basis.

Prices for rerefined Group III are also unchanged at €1,475/t-€1,525/t for 4 and 6 cSt, on an FCA basis ex rerefinery in Germany.

Prices for Group III oils with full slates of approvals remain at €1,785/t-€1,820/t for 4 and 6 cSt and at €1,825/t-€1,835/t for 8 cSt, on an FCA basis ex hubs in Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, Northwestern Europe and Spain.

Baltic and Black Seas

Again, no cargoes have been reported or identified loading out of the main Baltic ports. This is in spite of further rumors from Nigeria that a large cargo of up to 10,000 tons of Russian base oils is ready to load from either Saint Petersburg or Vyborg. Vessels may not be available to carry this parcel, since many ships do not want to end a voyage in West Africa and then have to sail in ballast for a considerable distance to be able to pick up another clean petroleum cargo. This makes the operation exceptionally expensive and may deter many owners from engaging in such a voyage. Russian and Belarus charterers cannot use European Union-flagged vessels, limiting the availability of suitable tonnage even further.

Russian cargoes may move from the Baltic to the United Arab Emirates and Singapore, with safe passage granted through the Bab-al-Mandeb Strait by Houthi rebels, but how this discretionary action is accomplished is an unknown. Attempts to track Russian base oil cargoes is difficult at the best of times and when sailing through Houthi controlled sea lanes, becomes well-nigh impossible. 

In the southern part of the Baltic, Lotos and PK Orlen are not offering any base oils from Gdansk refinery for “export” sales to northwest Europe or the United Kingdom but are selling all production into the local domestic market in Poland or other nearby markets. Previously, material from Gdansk was delivered into northern Italian blenders by truck, but there is no news of this operation happening at this time.

Russian FOB prices for SN 150 and SN 500 from St. Petersburg had been increased but remain at extremely low levels. The numbers are assessed at $560/t-$575/t for SN 150 and at $585/t-$599/t for the SN 500 grade.

The Turkish economy is still suffering from high inflation and even higher interest rates, which are being used to try to control the inflationary spiral. It is doubtful if higher interest rates isolation will be enough to bring down inflation from the dizzy heights of around 72%. There has been some insights as to how the government-to-government arrangements are made between Russia and Turkey for the import of petroleum products.

On a rolling basis, dollars are transferred from Turkish Central Government through the National Bank to a Russian bank or banks for quantities of products, including base oils, supplied by Russian traders or producers. The exact transaction processes are still not known, but sources within Turkey have agreed to try to establish the route and frequency and the amounts of the transfers.

Turkish base oil markets continue to rely on Russian base oils, which are much lower in prices than any Mediterranean-sourced products. Sellers such as Motor Oil Hellas and ExxonMobil either do not have availability to offer cargoes into Tukey, or their prices are too high for Turkish traders and blenders to consider. One lubricants blender advised this report that it had received an offer for around 4,000 tons of three Group I grades from Sicily, but the prices offered were more than $300/t higher than Russian material.

Local supplier of Group I base oils, Tupras, from Izmir refinery has again maintained 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 have been raised, with levels now around €1,225/t-€1,265/t for the three lower vis grades – 100N, 150N and 220N – with 600N now at €1,390/t-€1,475/t. That does not include the recent 600N cargo from Korea that was priced out of the range at $1,260/t – perhaps due to a quality issue – although that was the CIF price and not the ex-tank price.

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.

Partly-approved Group III base oils on an FCA basis includes Russian Tatneft 4 centiStoke grade, which is 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. Supplies from the Middle East Gulf and the Far East may be badly affected, with it becoming uneconomic for cargoes to be re-routed via the Cape, then proceed through the Mediterranean before finally discharging in Turkey. Feeder cargoes may load out of Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, following the discharge of the main cargo.

Fully-approved Group III grades from Cartagena in Spain are delivered into Gemlik and resold by traders on an FCA basis to local blenders requiring fully-approved base oils for finished lubricants. Prices are maintained at €1,960/t-€1,995/t FCA.

Middle East

Shipping problems, and particularly, obtaining suitable vessels to load cargoes remains a headache for loading base oils out of Yanbu and Jeddah. Luberef is unable to find vessels moving south through the Red Sea. Northbound cargoes are being loaded, but these are smaller and fewer than the large parcels that loaded out of Saudi ports for receivers in the west coast of India and the U.A.E. Strangely, figures seen in a recent report suggest that record quantities of base oils shipped from Yanbu and Jeddah to Mumbai anchorage in February. This statistic may be wrong, or something occurred that allowed large vessels to load and sail through the Bab-al- Mandeb Strait.

Middle East Gulf regions would normally have returned to day-to-day working following the Eid holiday, but the region was rocked by Iran’s direct attack on Israel April 13, when it launched more than 300 missiles and drones on Israel. Iran said the action was a response to Israel’s presumed strike on the Iranian Consulate in Damascus, which killed a number of top Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officers who were members of the Al Quds force, but Israeli military officials now say they will retaliate.

It has been difficult gathering information on Monday regarding what is happening in the base oil trade when everyone is talking about the Iranian strike and what the consequences will be for Iran if Israel seeks revenge.

One of Iran’s proxy partners, the Houthis, continue to attack merchant marine vessels in and around the Red Sea, with Middle East Gulf importers and exporters of base oils and finished lubricants unable to arrange shipments. Sources in the U.A.E. have confirmed that Luberef cargoes from Yanbu and Jeddah are being delayed and cancelled. The same sources say that alternative arrangements are being considered by trying to buy Group I cargoes from India, and Group II cargoes from Asia-Pacific, sources in Korea and Singapore.

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 and $725/t for SN 500. A parcel of around 5,000 tons loaded from Limas terminal in Turkey for receivers in Hamriyah and is believed to be currently discharging in that port.

Again it has been heard from the U.A.E., and from Lagos, that a U.A.E. trader may look to buy a grade specific Russian cargo comprised of three base oils – SN 150, SN 500 and SN 900 – to discharge in Hamriyah. The cargo would then be resold to an international trader, under a U.A.E. certificate of origin. Thereafter, the secondary trader would re-export the cargo to Apapa. The trader involved has already taken a “U.A.E.” cargo of Group I base oils to Nigeria sometime last year. The cargo could only have been Russian, since blending the SN 900 grade would be expensive and difficult for an Iranian supply, which is the only other source of Group I base oils in large quantities in the region.

Netbacks 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. Also, it depends on if the producers, Adnoc and Bapco, have adjusted their FOB prices lower to allay the extra costs of the freight to Europe.

Netbacks remain indicated at $1,485/t-$1,525/t, for the 4 cSt, 6 cSt and 8 cSt partly-proved Group III grades. 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 maintained at around $1500/t-$1560/t, due to larger cargo sizes of around 25,000 tons per parcel, contributing to lower freight rates.

Netback levels are assessed 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 U.S. and Europe. Few, if any, cargoes appear to be arriving from Yanbu because the market is tight, with demand rising following the Eid holiday. Buyers are looking at alternative sources, such as South Korea and Singapore, to cover this market. Selling 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.

South African shipping agency sources confirmed the large European base oil cargo that will load during the second half of April from Rotterdam and Fawley and will directly sail to Durban for discharge. The parcel will be comprised of around 19,000 tons of three types of base oil plus a small quantity of easy chemicals. It is believed that a vessel has been fixed, and it is a vessel that has been chartered previously to make the same voyage.


West African news is that a 9,000-10,000 ton cargo loaded out of Fawley for receivers in Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, and Ghana. The Ghana delivery will be 5,000 tons of SN 150, SN 500 and bright stock – the exact quantities are not disclosed. 1This delivery will cover the Tema tender, which was successfully retained by the major. Alternative supply sources such as Livorno are no longer available, where supplies covering this tender had previously been sourced.

The 8,000-10,000 ton cargo that may have loaded out of the Baltic with SN 150, SN 500 and SN 900 may arrive into Apapa later this month, but no positive confirmation can be established either in the Baltic or in Lagos. It is believed that a Minsk-based trader will have chartered the vessel and will deliver this parcel into receivers in Lagos. 

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 raised. The problem is that Russian and U.A.E. offers are pulling the market down. That makes life difficult for other traders that are dealing in prime Group I grades and are having to use bright stock – which is more expensive – to blend the SN 900 grade.

Current CFR Apapa prices are indicated in ranges at around $975/t-$995/t for SN 150, $1,055/t-$1,080/t for SN 500 and SN 900 at around $1,110/t-$1,125/t. Prices have risen, reflecting higher FOB levels and increased freight costs.

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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