U.S. Base Oil Price Report

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Additional paraffinic base oil producers communicated posted price increases this week, following ExxonMobil’s move a week ago. On the naphthenic side, suppliers have also stepped out with price initiatives. The increases were prompted by an extremely tight supply situation, firm crude oil and feedstock prices, steady demand and soaring spot values.

Chevron informed its customers that the company would be increasing its API Group II posted prices by 30 cents per gallon on March 23 to reflect current market conditions.

Effective March 22, Excel Paralubes implemented posted price increases of 30 cents/gal on its Group II Pure Performance 70N, 110N and  225N base oils, and 32 cents/gal on its 600N cut. 

Phillips 66 lifted its Group II+ and Group III Ultra-S 2, 3, 4 and 8 posted prices by 35 cents/gal on March 22.  

Calumet lifted the price of its Group I 600-vis by 30 cents/gal and its bright stock by 40 cents/gal. The company’s Group II 75/80, 100, 150 and 325-vis grades were marked up by 20 cents/gal, with all of the increases going into effect on March 23. Calumet also raised the price of its naphthenic products as mentioned in the naphthenic base oil section below.

HollyFrontier will be raising the price of its Group I 70/75, 100, 150 and 250-vis grades by 20 cents/gal, its 525-vis base oil by 30 cents/gal and its bright stock by 40 cents/gal, with an effective date of March 24.

Petro-Canada communicated a price increase of 30 cents/gal for its Group II and Group II+ base oils and 35 cents/gal for its Group III grades, which will go into effect on March 24.

SK will be raising its Group II+ 70N by 30 cents/gal, its Group III 4 cSt cut by 30 cents/gal and its Group III 6 cSt and 8 cSt by 35 cents/gal, effective March 29.  

Avista Oil raised posted prices on its Group II+ ESR 50 grade and its Group III ESR T-5 grade by 30 cents/gal, effective March 22. The price change was due to, among other factors, “higher feedstock costs, competing fuel prices for vacuum gas oil, and firm market fundamentals, including high demand and tight supplies,” the company explained.

Paulsboro will be increasing the price of its Group I 100-vis and 165-vis grades by 20 cents per gallon, its 500 and 700-vis grades by 30 cents/gal and its bright stock by 40 cents/gal as of March 24.

Last week, market sources reported that ExxonMobil had increased the price of its Group I 100 to 400-vis grades by 20 cents per gallon, its 600-vis grade by 30 cents/gal and its bright stock by 40 cents/gal. The producer’s Group II EHC 65 cut edged up by 20 cents/gal and its Group II+ EHC 45 grade by 30 cents/gal, all with an effective date of March 19.

On the naphthenic base oils side, Cross Oil raised the price of its pale oils by 20 cents/gal on March 23. The producer explained that the increase was necessary to “recover the rapidly rising cost of naphthenic crudes, refinery feedstocks and in-bound transportation.” Cross Oil’s base oil plant in Smackover, Arkansas, was undergoing a turnaround, and the company noted that it would limit orders to contract quantities during the transitional period and may limit sales based on available inventory. The turnaround started in late February and was expected to be completed in late March.

Calumet increased the price of all of its naphthenic products by 20 cents/gal. effective March 23.

The fresh round of increases closely follows a string of paraffinic and naphthenic price hikes that raised values by 25 to 45 cents per gallon, depending on the grade and the producer, between February 19 and March 3.

The higher base oil and raw material costs have triggered price increases in downstream finished lubricants, greases and additive segments between 3% and 20%, scheduled to be implemented in April. Not all finished lubricant producers are able to implement increases due to specific conditions in their contracts; for example, some terms only allow quarterly adjustments. A number of blenders mentioned facing difficulties transferring the increases down the supply chain and lamented the fact that they would have to sell products at a loss.

It was very uncertain when the strained base oil supply situation would improve. Recent and ongoing plant shutdowns, together with reduced operating rates at a number of refineries due to lukewarm fuel demand were contributing to the tightness.

Motiva and ExxonMobil declared force majeure, following unexpected production outages at their Texas refineries after freezing temperatures and utility outages in mid-February forced the shutdowns. Both producers had placed customers on allocation, according to sources, but it was heard that Motiva would be lifting its allocation on April 15.

The extension of a couple of scheduled turnarounds due to severe winter weather exacerbated the snug supply conditions in the Group I segment as well.

Calumet’s routine turnaround at its Group I and Group II unit in Shreveport, Louisiana, had been expected to be completed in early March, but was extended for a couple of weeks. However, the plant was restarted over the weekend and had begun to produce base oils, sources familiar with the company’s operations said.

HollyFrontier’s Group I plant in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was also undergoing a scheduled turnaround since February, which was extended due to severe weather conditions.

Rerefiner Avista Oil completed a brief turnaround which started on March 8 and lasted less than a week.

Ergon’s paraffinic refinery in Newell, West Virginia, is scheduled for a 30-day turnaround, starting on April 9. The company has built inventories and hopes to minimize supply disruptions during the turnaround period and startup process.

Several brief plant shutdowns also took place on the naphthenic side of the market, following winter storms, while a planned shutdown was still ongoing.

Cross Oil’s naphthenic base oil plant in Smackover, Arkansas, was expected to complete a month-long maintenance program in the next few days. The turnaround began on Feb. 25, but the producer was anticipated to meet most of its contractual commitments during the outage.

San Joaquin Refining completed a turnaround at its naphthenic base oil unit in Bakersfield, California, in late February and had placed customers on allocation during the shutdown.

Upstream, crude oil futures slumped on news about lockdowns in Europe and the prospects of reduced demand for fuel products in coming months.

On Tuesday, March 23, May WTI futures settled at $57.76 per barrel on the CME/Nymex, and had closed at $64.80/bbl for April futures on March 16.

Brent futures for May delivery settled at $60.79/bbl on the CME on March 23, from $68.39/bbl on March 16.

Light Louisiana Sweet crude wholesale spot prices were hovering at $63.53/bbl on March 22 and had closed at $67.66/bbl on March 15, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Gabriela Wheeler can be reached directly at gabriela@LubesnGreases.com.

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

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

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