Asia Base Oil Price Report


The Asian base oil market is slowly coming back to life after holidays in China, Taiwan, Malaysia and South Korea. Prices have been under downward pressure given improved availability and a seasonal slowdown in demand.

In the days preceding the holidays, trading had been subdued because buyers hesitated to acquire fresh cargoes on concerns that prices would continue to move down in coming weeks.

Suppliers tried to maintain an optimistic outlook and noted that requirements tend to pick up again at the beginning of the fourth quarter as downstream manufacturers hike up production in the months leading to the yearend holidays.

At the same time, some buyers pointed out that end-users generally prefer to end the year with low inventories, so they would be more cautious in terms of volumes purchased in coming weeks.

Taiwanese producer Formosa Petrochemical restarted operations at its Mailiao plant last month, and sources said that availability of spot cargoes of API Group II had grown in that country and in markets that import material from Taiwan, such as China. Formosa had suspended sales of spot material during the two-month turnaround as the producer strove to meet contractual obligations.

Given improved domestic availability, Formosa lowered its domestic list prices for October to entice Taiwanese consumers to favor locally produced material over imports.

Regional offer levels have been edging down, but import prices are still less competitive than domestic values, plus it is easier in terms of logistics to source material within Taiwan, buyers admitted.

Meanwhile, other producers in the region were heard to be looking for opportunities to place cargoes overseas.

There were rumblings that some South Korean Group II cargoes might be on their way to the United States as supply there has tightened on the back of a refinery turnaround at Chevrons base oil plant in Richmond, California.

Last week, U.S. producer Phillips 66 increased its heavy-vis Group II base oil price by 10 cents per gallon.

At the same time, another U.S. producer, Motiva, lowered its Group II postings. Sources speculated that this was because demand has started to decline as is typical towards the end of the year, and also to make prices in the U.S. less attractive for Asian exporters.

Trading in Asia was anticipated to pick up the pace in the next couple of weeks, but for the time being, prices were deemed largely stable, although some assessments were revised to bring prices more in line with current discussion levels.

On an ex-tank Singapore basis, Group I solvent neutral 150 was unchanged at between $585 per metric ton and $605/t, while SN500 was steady at $665/t-$695/t. Bright stock was heard at $930/t-$950/t.

Group II 150 neutral was holding at $585/t-$605/t, and 500N was heard at $765/t-$785/t, ex-tank Singapore.

On an FOB Asia basis, Group I SN150 was assessed at $470/t-$490/t while the SN500 was adjusted up by $10/t to $590/t-$610/t. Bright stock was also assessed up by $10/t at $790/t-$810/t.

In the Group II category, 150N was down by $20/t at $480/t-$500/t on plentiful availability, while 500N/600N was unchanged at $650/t-$670/t, all FOB Asia.

Within the Group III tier, 4 centiStoke and 6 cSt oils were heard at $790/t-$820/t, FOB Asia. The 8 cSt grade was revised up by $10/t at $650/t-$670/t to reflect current discussions.

On the crude oil front, futures surged to four-month highs, with West Texas Intermediate crude settling above $50 per barrel for the first time since June, and Brent trading above $52/bbl. Values were pushed up after news of another informal OPEC meeting where further output cuts would be discussed.

Oil prices have also been boosted by unexpected drawdowns of U.S. stockpiles.

Crude oil prices had plummeted from above $100/bbl in mid-2014 to around $26/bbl in February this year due to a global supply glut and OPEC’s refusal to cut output.

ICE Brent Singapore December futures were trading at U.S. $51.64/bbl on Oct. 10, compared to $50.67/bbl for November futures on Oct. 3.

Gabriela Wheeler can be reached directly at

LNG Publishing shall not be liable for commercial decisions based on the contents of this report.

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