Asia Base Oil Price Report


Prices in the Asia base oils market have remained fairly stable, with the exception of a heavy-vis grade that surprisingly has undergone downward adjustments.

Industry participants said prices for some heavy grades have been under pressure given a slight oversupply situation, despite efforts by suppliers to prop up prices.

Indeed, a major refiner in Singapore was heard to have cut term prices for its API Group II 500 neutral grade exported to China by U.S. $20/ton on March 7, possibly because of plentiful availability of that grade, according to sources. The producer has so far not called for any other adjustments.

Conversely, light-vis stocks, in both Group I and II categories, are in shorter supply than their heavier counterparts, due to healthy demand during the winter months coupled with cutbacks in production. Producers have favored output of heavier grades during the last few months because of poor market economics for the light varieties, sources explained.

CPC-Shells Group I light-vis line in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, remains off-line since July 2013 and is unlikely to be restarted any time soon, unless market conditions improve dramatically in the light-vis segment, sources said. This has limited supply for domestic consumers in Taiwan and for the export market.

Additionally, Taiwanese Group II producer Formosa Petrochemicals said it would not be able to participate in the spot market in April because it has committed all of its output to term customers, adding that light oils were especially snug.

Several plants in China also remain shut, including Sinopecs 300,000 ton per year Group II unit in Gaoqiao, and the refiners 100,000 t/y Jingmen Group II plant. The Szechwan refinery, owned by PetroChina and a local base oil company, was also heard to be running at reduced rates of 75 percent due to feedstock supply issues.

Panjing Northern Asphalts 400,000 t/y Group II base oils plant in Liaoning is scheduled for a 20-day shutdown in early April to complete some adjustments as well.

In India, there were reports that Hindustan Petroleum would be taking its Group I/II/III plant in Mumbai offline for a 45-day maintenance program in late April, but the shutdown is not expected to affect the regional supply balance as most of the suppliers production is used for its internal operations.

In Thailand, IRPC was heard to have shut down its 320,000 t/y Group I plant in Rayong for maintenance on March 15, although this could not be confirmed.

Asian base oil producers have been hoping to push through increases to improve margins against firm feedstock costs, but it has been difficult to attain this goal due to the ample availability of most grades.

However, suppliers remained confident that spot prices for lighter grades would move up in the next few weeks, given tight supply and limited spot availability. This is probably the last chance for some months to raise prices for these oils as demand for them declines in the spring.

At the same time, sellers admitted that pushing through hikes for the heavier grades has been more difficult, but they believed that this would be achieved once demand for these grades flourishes during the spring and summer.

Achieving price increases has been particularly challenging in India, because competitively-priced cargoes from the United States arrive every month, sources explained.

Prices were largely unchanged week-on-week. Group I solvent neutral 150 was holding at $940-$970/t FOB Asia. SN500 was holding at $1,030-$1,070/t, and bright stock at $1,130-$1,180/t, all FOB Asia.

Group II material was heard discussed at $1,000-$1,040/t FOB Asia for 150 neutral, while 500N was mentioned at $1,050-$1,100/t FOB Asia.

In the Group III segment, 4 centiStoke and 6 cSt oils were steady at $1,030-$1,080/t FOB Asia, and the 8 cSt grade was also unchanged at $1,020-$1,050/t FOB Asia.

On an ex-tank Singapore basis, prices were assessed at $1,020-1,060/t for Group I SN150, at $1,050-1,120/t for SN500 and at $1,170-1,230/t for bright stock.

Several shipping inquiries emerged ex-South Korea this week, with a 3,000-4,000-ton cargo expected to cover Ulsan or Yeosu to Nantong, China, during March 25-29. A 2,000-ton lot was also being discussed from Ulsan or Yeosu to Tianjin, China, for March 25-April 7 lifting. A 2,000-ton cargo was expected to cover Ulsan or Yeosu to Dongguan, China, on March 25-29. A 1,000-ton cargo of two grades was being worked on for Onsan to Wakayama and Tsurumi, Japan, for April 1-7 lifting. A 1,100-ton parcel of two grades was on the table for Yeosu to Gresik, Indonesia, for April shipment, while a second 2,500-ton lot of four grades was likely to be shipped from Yeosu to Merak, also in Indonesia, during March 21-31.

Additionally, a 4,000-5,000-ton parcel was being discussed for Kainan, Japan, to Singapore for March 25-April 5 lifting. A 5,000-10,000-ton lubes cargo was on the table for Brazil to the west coast of India for April 1-20 shipment.

Upstream, April ICE Brent Singapore futures were trading at $107.85 per barrel in afternoon trading March 17, compared with $108.08/bbl on March 10.

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