Volatile crude oil prices, plentiful supply and weakening demand continued to exert downward pressure on base oil price ideas in Asia, with spot offers seeing further decreases this week.
The start of a second round of base oil price markdowns in the U.S. in the course of a month also weighed on market sentiment.
Asia market players have been keeping a close eye on developments in the crude oil arena. Crude values showed fewer sharp fluctuations than the previous week, but they were still bound on an unpredictable course.
Members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other oil-producing nations are expected to respond to Venezuelas request that the group meet to try to stabilize crude prices, Bloomberg reported this week. Some of OPECs members have criticized the organizations decision not to reduce output last year. Brent crude has since then dropped more than 50 percent amid a surplus in global supply.
Several base oil price decrease moves were understood to be taking place in Asia as suppliers hope to remain competitive and attract more orders during a time when requirements typically weaken.
It was heard that a major Southeast Asian refiner had adjusted down the September list price of its API Group I and II base oils, setting an effective date of Sep. 11.
According to sources, solvent neutral 150 list prices were reduced by United States dollars $30 per metric ton, while the SN600 cut underwent decreases of $20/ton.
Bright stock prices were lowered by $40/ton, surprising many participants as values of this grade had been fairly firm in previous months on tight supply and healthy demand.
However, bright stock spot export prices in Asia had experienced a hefty decrease of about $100/ton the previous week on lower buying and selling ideas, and the downward pressure has not led up.
Within the Group II category, the Southeast Asian refiner was heard to have dropped the price of 150 neutral and 500N $20/ton. Once again, it was slightly surprising that the heavy-vis cut experienced a similar price reduction as the light-vis grade, but this seems to be a reflection of current market conditions.
Meanwhile, a majority of base oil production plants in Asia were heard to be running at close to full rates, although a number of producers have opted for tilting the balance towards output of the heavy viscosity cuts because margins had been more attractive.
A few base oil plants in China were also heard to have trimmed production rates, or shut down for turnarounds during a time of the year when demand is likely to taper off.
Sinopec Nanyang was heard to have been taken off line in mid August for maintenance. The unit is expected to be off-line for sixty days and has a nameplace capacity of 47,000 metric tons per year of Group I base oils, according to LubesnGreases Global Guide to Base Oil Refining.
A couple of other Sinopec subsidiaries, namely Sinopec Jinan and Sinopec Jingmen, were heard to be running at lower rates due to market conditions and reduced feedstock supply. The Jinan unit can produce 51,000 t/y of Group I base oils and 150,000 t/y of Group II oils, while the Jingmen facility has capacity to manufacture 203,000 t/y of Group I and 100,000 t/y of Group II oils, and was understood to have completed a maintenance program in August.
Sinopec has also delayed the start-up of a new 200,000 t/y Group II base oil plant in Nanjing. Following several delays, the plant was most recently expected to be commissioned in August, but trial runs are now anticipated to be postponed until October.
In terms of pricing, a number of base oils were adjusted down this week on lower bids and offers due to weaker market fundamentals.
On an ex-tank Singapore basis, Group I SN150 prices were revised down by $20 to $600/t-$620/t, and SN500 was assessed at $760/t-$790/t, reflecting a reduction of $10/t. Bright stock assessments were adjusted down by $20/t to $1,050/t-$1,070/t.
On an FOB Asia basis, Group I SN150 was revised down by $10/t at $500/t-$520/t. SN500 also softened by $10/t to $660/t-$680/t FOB, and bright stock was unchanged at $980/t-$1,010/t FOB.
Within the Group II category, prices for 150N were adjusted down by $10-20/t to $510/t-$530/t FOB Asia. Prices for 500N were assessed down by $10/t at $710/t-$730/t FOB Asia.
In the Group III segment, there were few transactions reported, with prices notionally left unchanged as a result. The 4 centiStoke and 6 cSt oils were holding at $870/t-$890/t FOB Asia, while the 8 cSt grade was steady at $640/t-$660/t FOB Asia.
Several inquiries to move product from South Korea emerged during the week, with a 1,000-metric ton cargo of two base oil grades quoted for Yeosu to Tianjin, China, for prompt to Sep. 25 shipment. A 1,380-ton lot, also of two grades, was expected to be shipped from Yeosu to Merak, Indonesia, betweenSep. 20-30, while a 500-ton parcel was being discussed for Yeosu to Singapore for the same dates. A 1,750-ton cargo of four grades was on the table for Yeosu to Mumbai, India, for Sep. 20-28 shipment. A 3,300-ton lot of three grades was being worked on for Yeosu to Chennai, India, for Sep. 20-28 dates. A 1,000-ton parcel was likely to ship from Yeosu to Gebze, Turkey, inOct. A 3,000-ton cargo of 150N was quoted for Daesan to Tianjin, China, for end Sep.-early Oct. lifting.
Lastly, a 2,000-ton cargo of two base oil grades was discussed for Negishi, Japan, to Ulsan, South Korea, for prompt shipment.
October ICE Brent Singapore futures traded at $47.46 per barrel in afternoon trading on Sep. 14, compared to $50.04 per barrel for futures on Sep. 3.
Gabriela Wheeler can be reached directly atgabriela@LubesnGreases.com.