Asia Base Oil Price Report


Base oils continued to be exposed to upward price pressure on the back of firm crude oil values, but few changes materialized during the week because of the early May holidays observed in several countries.

Market activity in the weeks leading to the holidays appeared to have been more temperate than at the same time in years past, sources said, without being able to pinpoint a specific reason for the lack of vitality.

Concerns over climbing crude oil costs lingered, as producers contended with squeezed margins and slowing conditions in downstream markets, while base oil buyers felt uncertain about price direction.

Dated deliveries of Brent crude have reached recent highs of over $75 per barrel, and continued to hover at levels well above $70 per barrel. By comparison, Brent futures traded at $63.72 per barrel on March 1.

Some participants noted that demand from a couple of downstream markets had been slightly weaker than expected during the spring season, citing the industrial and marine applications as two of the segments that appeared to have lost steam ahead of the usual May slowdown.

Given weaker-than-expected demand in key markets such as China, availability of certain grades, such as the heavy-viscosity cuts, was anticipated to outpace requirements.

Added to this was the fact that some plants have resumed production, following recent turnarounds.

One of these units was the S-Oil base oil plant in Onsan, South Korea, which was heard to have restarted operations following a partial shutdown the previous month. The plant can produce 1.04 million metric tons per year of Group II and close to 1 million t/y of Group III oils, according to LubesnGreases Global Guide to Base Oil Refining.

Another facility which was expected to resume production was Sinopec Gaoqiao in China. The producer was anticipated to restart its plant in Shanghai at the end of the month, following the completion of a maintenance program at its large refinery. The plant can produce 308,000 t/y of Group I and 310,000 t/y of Group II base oils, and was taken off-line in mid-March.

A second Sinopec base oil plant, Sinopec Jingmen, was heard to be scheduled for a turnaround in September. The plant has capacity to produce 203,000 t/y of Group I and 100,000 t/y of Group II base oils.

Another plant turnaround that will be coming up in the next few months is Formosa Petrochemicals. The plant, which can produce 600,000 t/y of various Group II base oil cuts, was expected to be taken off-line for routine turnaround in July.

The turnaround schedule could not be confirmed with the producers directly.

Some buyers were heard to have started to take increased volumes of contract cargoes from their different suppliers to build inventories and cover product needs during the upcoming outages.

Given subdued activity this week, spot prices were generally assessed unchanged, although suppliers lamented that margins continued to be under pressure because of the recent climb in crude oil and feedstock prices.

In terms of ex-tank Singapore numbers, Group I SN150 was steady at $770/t-$790/t, while the SN500 was assessed at $900/t-$920/t. Bright stock was hovering at $960/t-$980/t, all ex-tank Singapore.

Group II 150 neutral was holding at $800/t-$830/t, and the 500N cut at $910/t-$930/t ex-tank Singapore.

On an FOB Asia basis, Group I SN150 was stable at $690/t-$710/t, with the SN500 assessed unchanged at $840/t-$860/t. Bright stock was holding at $880/t-$910/t FOB Asia.

Group II 150N was heard at $730/t-$750/t, and the 500N/600N at $810/t-$840/t, all FOB Asia.

In the Group III segment, the 4 centiStoke was hovering at $870-$890, and the 6 cSt grade at $850/t-$870/t. The 8 cSt was gauged at $760/t-$780/t, FOB Asia.

Upstream, crude oil futures were trading lower on Thursday, weighed down by this weeks data showing a sharp climb in crude supplies against record U.S. production.

However, the possibility of Venezuelas exclusion from the International Monetary Fund sparked traders concerns about crude output levels from this major oil-producing country, and helped futures maintain some of the weeks earlier gains. There were also questions about the consequences of a potential renewal of U.S. sanctions against Iran.

On Thursday, May 3, Brent July futures were trading at $73.63 per barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange, compared to $74.63 per barrel for June futures on April 26.

In related industry news, Chinas National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) announced a price decrease for gasoline and diesel in response to a national VAT reform bill, which was implemented on May 1, according to local news outlets. China lowered a range of its VAT rates depending on the sector; for example, the VAT rate on manufacturing supplies was cut from 17 percent to 16 percent. The retail prices of gasoline and diesel were lowered by Chinese Yuan (CNY) 75 per metric ton and CNY 65/t, or approximately $12/t and $10/t, respectively, also effective May 1. This is the sixth price adjustment for fuels since the beginning of the year.

Gabriela Wheeler can be reached directly at

LubesnGreasesshall not be liable for commercial decisions based on the contents of this report.

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