While a vast portion of the market appeared to have slipped into summer mode, a few suppliers reported a small jump in orders, likely from buyers securing product ahead of potential base oil price adjustments as crude oil values continued their climb.
Despite the volatility shown by crude oil and feedstock values, base oil prices in general were stable, and with the exception of Chevrons posted price increase on July 2, there were no fluctuations reported over the last several weeks. The price stability has been consistent in recent months, a source confirmed.
Suppliers appeared hesitant to initiate price adjustments as base stock demand has started to show some softness associated with reduced summer activity levels.
Nevertheless, the API Group I segment was keeping a generally steady tempo, while Group II availability was still described as snug on the back of recent buying spurts, with a scarcity of spot cargoes reported. A number of suppliers in both segments mentioned having achieved balanced positions.
Group I bright stock supplies remained limited within the domestic market, and were heard to be tightening in other regions has well. There were reports that two small bright stock cargoes had been shipped from Europe to the United States and then sold to Mexico. It was also heard that export transactions had become more difficult to conclude, despite the fact that spot prices for some of the heavy cuts were competitive.
Demand for Group III oils was also considered to be quite healthy, but prices were in a more precarious position due to the ample availability of barrels from Middle East sources.
Several refineries and petrochemical plants in the Gulf of Mexico had prepared for the arrival of Hurricane Barry over the weekend as they were in the path of the storm, including
ExxonMobils Baton Rouge unit in Louisiana and Beaumont unit in Texas, but many units have been restarted. However, roughly 1.3 million barrels per day of oil production, or 69 percent, was still offline as of Monday. No update was forthcoming about possible production disruptions at the Excel Paralubes base oil plant in Westlake, La.
Transportation was affected as rail carriers issued embargoes for all railcar traffic in the area, and some ports, such as the Port of New Orleans, were closed. Barry was downgraded from a Category 1 Hurricane to a Tropical Storm Saturday afternoon.
Oil futures moved higher on Tuesday on expectations that United States government data due out on Wednesday would reflect a decline in weekly domestic crude stockpiles on the back of storm-related output disruptions. Prices had posted losses on Monday as production in the Gulf of Mexico resumed, and had also reacted to Secretary of States Mike Pompeos comment that Iran was ready to discuss its missile program.
On July 16, West Texas Intermediate August futures settled at $57.62 per barrel on the CME/Nymex and had closed at $57.83/bbl on July 9.
Brent futures for September delivery settled at $64.35/bbl on the CME on July 16, and had closed at $64.16/bbl on July 9.
Light Louisiana Sweet crude wholesale spot prices settled at $64.55/bbl on July 15, compared to $62.05/bbl on July 8, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Low sulfur vacuum gas oil and high sulfur VGO were both at August WTI plus $13.75/bbl ($73.06/bbl) on July 15. By comparison, low sulfur VGO was hovering at $69.91/bbl and high sulfur VGO at $69.91/bbl on July 8, according to data published by OPIS PetroChemWire.
In other news, the trade war between the U.S. and China appeared to be taking its toll on China, CNN.com reported. Chinas economic growth slid to its lowest level in almost 30 years; the countrys gross domestic product grew 6.2 percent in the second quarter - the slowest quarterly growth rate since 1992 - compared with 6.4 percent the previous quarter. Chinas National Bureau of Statistics predicted that the countrys economy would continue to be exposed to downward pressure in the second half of the year, especially if there was no progress made in the renewed U.S.-China trade negotiations.
Historic U.S. posted base oil prices and WTI and Brent crude spot prices are available for purchase inExcel format.