Asia Base Oil Price Report


Tight supply, steady demand, and rising feedstock costs continue to support stable to firm spot price ideas in Asia, although trading was somewhat subdued due to regional holidays this week.

The main factor affecting market fundamentals are the current and upcoming turnarounds taking place in Asia, as well as other regions, which have resulted in limited supply of several base oil cuts, together with steeper bids and offers.

However, supply restrictions, together with April holidays such as the Ching Ming Festival in Taiwan and China, the Songkran (or New Year) Festival in Thailand, and Easter have placed a damper on discussions.

The API Group I base stocks were reported as generally snug, with bright stock in particular appearing to be in limited supply. Some sources said this was due to reduced production of this grade by regional suppliers earlier this year, while a recent festive period in Iran also tightened availability of this cut and of the heavy-viscosity grade SN500 into India.

Fresh indications from Iran into India were heard to be limited, as availability of these heavy-vis cuts does not appear to have improved much in the last few days. It is unclear whether this is because there is higher demand for these grades within the Middle East, or because of reduced production of these grades in Iran.

In any case, the few export offers from Iran for the SN500 grade that were heard discussed in the market have moved up slightly by around U.S. $5 per metric ton to $670/t FOB for April shipments of the material.

Turnarounds at Japanese facilities also appear to have caused limited availability of Group I base oils in Asia. It was heard that a few large cargoes of bright stock had moved from the U.S. to Japan to make up for the production shortfall.

Several Japanese base oil units will undergo maintenance in the second quarter, while one facility was crippled by a fire earlier this year.

Idemitsu Kosan confirmed that it would shut down its base oil unit in Chiba for maintenance from mid-April to late June. The unit can produce 123,000 t/y Group I and 138,000 t/y Group II base oils, according to LubesnGreases Guide to Global Base Oil Refining.

JX Nippon was heard to be planning to shut down its 209,000 t/y Group I plant in Mizushima for two and a half months beginning in early May. The companys second base oil unit in Mizushima will not be affected, according to sources.

TonenGeneral Sekiyu K.K. is expected to resume full production at its Wakayama refinerys Group I plant at the end of the year, as repairs to the equipment damaged by the fire are being completed. The plant can produce 370,000 metric tons per year of Group I base oils.

At the same time, turnarounds at the ExxonMobil 1.6 million metric tons per year Group II plant on Jurong, Singapore, from end of February until early April; and the GS-Caltex 1.2 million t/y Group II unit in Yeosu, South Korea, from mid-March until late April have cut down on Group II availability. Producer confirmation about the turnarounds was not forthcoming.

In China, Sinopec Maoming was heard to have shut down its 400,000 t/y Group II/III base oils unit for a turnaround in mid-March as well.

Also in China, Panjin Northern Asphalt was heard to have scheduled a one-month maintenance shutdown at its 400,000 t/y Group II unit in Panjin, starting this week.

Looking forward into June, South Korean producer SK Lubricants will be taking its Group II/III plant in Ulsan off-line for a three-week turnaround at the start of the month. The unit has capacity of 701,000 t/y Group II and 1.3 million t/y Group III base oils.

There were also reports that Japanese producer Cosmo Oil would be performing a turnaround at its 119,000 t/y Group I plant in Yokkaichi for two months, starting in June.

The Group III segment has also seen its share of tightening due to the extended shutdown at the Shell-Qatar Petroleum Pearl GTL Group III facility in Ras Laffan, Qatar. The plant can produce 300,000 t/y of Group II and 1 million t/y of Group III base stocks and exports a large share of its production.

Aside from monitoring the shutdown schedule, market participants were keeping an eye on crude oil prices, which jumped late last week on news that the U.S. had launched a missile strike on government forces in Syria.

Oil prices moved up again on Monday, driven by another shutdown at Libyas largest oilfield, tensions over Syria following the U.S. missile strike, and indications that production cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other oil producers were helping to reduce global oversupply.

ICE Brent Singapore June futures settled at $55.59 per barrel on April 10, compared to $53.44/bbl on April 3.

Asian market analysts outlook for the global economy was said to be perhaps the most optimistic it has been in years, with Chinese data this week expected to show the economy performing well, according to Malaysian newspaper The Star.

Following gains in crude oil prices, spot base oil indications were also assessed stable to slightly firmer this week, although the number of transactions was hampered by snug supply. Some numbers were notionally assessed up to reflect higher bids and offers, although few deals were confirmed.

On an ex-tank Singapore basis, API Group I solvent neutral 150 was assessed at $690/t-$710/t, up $10/t from a week ago. SN500 was up by $5/t at the high end of the range at $820/t-$840/t, and bright stock was heard at $990/t-$1,010/t ex-tank Singapore, also up $10/t from last week.

Group II 150 neutral was assessed up by $10/t at the low end of the range at $700/t-$710/t and the 500N was up by $5/t at $870/t-$890/t ex-tank Singapore.

On an FOB Asia basis, Group I SN150 was heard up by $10/t at $570/t-$590/t, SN500 was also up by $10/t at $770/t-$790/t FOB, and bright stock inched up by $5/t at $905/t-$925/t FOB.

Group II base oils also inched up by $10/t, with the 150N assessed at $630/t-$650/t and 500N/600N at $830/t-$850/t FOB Asia.

In the Group III segment, the 4 centiStoke and 6 cSt oils were unchanged at $740/t-$760/t, and 8 cSt was steady at $710/t-$730/t, all FOB Asia.

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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