U.S. Base Oil Price Report


The U.S. base oil market was quiet until the close of business yesterday, when Chevron announced an 18 to 20 cent per gallon increase in its API Group II posted prices, the only paraffinic producer to follow Flint Hills Resources move of last week.

Chevron raised postings by 20 cents per gallon on its 100 vis, by 18 cents/gal on 220, and by 20 cents/gal on 600, all effective Friday, April 23. Chevron was the only U.S. producer to follow Flint Hills April 13 increase.

Sources had expected more posting changes this week. They pointed out that customer orders have been and are still picking up steam, suggesting that volumes being sold are on target. Sources also said that producers inventories have snugged up and are now much better balanced for all grades than they were just a month ago.

In some players opinions, these fundamentals would typically support suppliers attempting to raise prices, particularly when still-high feedstock costs are biting into producers margins.

Heavy end grades, including 500 through 700 vis and bright stock, have been in tight supply since mid last year, while light neutrals had been more abundantly available. That has since changed, however, and light vis grades, 70 through 350, are now considered more evenly balanced.

A few buyers suggest that light neutrals are still readily available, but admit that steeply discounted prices have been pulled off the table.

Contract consumers say that net base oil prices being paid are on average in the region of a 5 to 8 percent discount to postings. There are exceptions to this general rule of thumb, and details are closely guarded. Contract prices depend on a variety of circumstances involving the supply partnership, special credit arrangements, location and volumes bought.

Meanwhile, crude oil prices continue to keep most players guessing. In recent weeks, crude futures sprang over the $87 per barrel mark, before reversing course, reaching a fresh low of $81/bbl during intra-day trading on Monday.

However, after sliding last week, crude values perked back up on Tuesday, taking aim at $84/bbl, although they failed to penetrate that level.

Energy experts suspect that crude took an upward turn as strong corporate earnings reports dampened worries over the Goldman fraud case.

Oil prices had stayed within a reasonably tight range for weeks before last Friday’s big news surfaced of fraud charges against Goldman Sachs, which helped send oil futures down 3 percent in a day. Even though down nearly 4 percent over the past week to their lowest levels since early March, crude prices are still 61 percent higher than a year ago.

At the close of the Tuesday, April 20, NYMEX session, light sweet crude futures ended the day at $83.45 per barrel, a modest loss of 60 cent compared to the April 7 settlement at $84.05/bbl.

Historic U.S. posted base oil prices and WTI and Brent crude spot prices are available for purchase in Excel format.

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