Europe-MidEast-Africa Base Oil Price Report


Its been a quiet business week with very light trading, while a raft of enquiries has been making the rounds as buyers search high and low for any base oils.

Traditional sources for prompt spot material have dried up, and mainstay suppliers have committed most of their short and medium term production. Further restrictions are imposed by a record number of refinery turnaround this spring. Civil liberty demonstrations and ensuing strife still embroil Libya, Bahrain and Yemen, and may be set to expand in Syria. The EMEA base oil market has seen its share of problems during the first part of this year.

As a result of the lack of activity, prices within the region have been very difficult to pinpoint. Buyers and sellers opinions differ greatly when talking of notional prices, particularly for API Group I base oils.

Prices for Group l base oils are showing upward movement from last weeks levels. Light solvent neutrals are between $1275 and $1310 per ton, with SN 500/600 at $1320 to $1350/t. Bright stock for future sales is at the same levels as previously reported, showing at an equivalent forward value to prices between $1495 and $1600/t in todays market.

The large spread in bright stock prices is due to parcel size. At this time, small lots delivered by truck are being sold at lower levels than larger cargo quantities such as those designated for West Africa and Egyptian General Petroleum Corp.

These prices as always refer to mainstream production being loaded ex European and North African ports.

Russian material has gone exceptionally short, with some of the traders in the Baltic still awaiting news as to what they will or will not have for May sales. Apparently a similar situation to mainland Europe is happening within Russia, where demand for domestically produced base oil has risen along with a slow-down in quantities produced in refineries which traditionally export volumes to the Baltic and Black Sea.

Prices are now almost concurrent with European mainstream supplies, since this is the only area holding out some hope for those receivers who are scouring the market looking for avails. One trader commented that availabilities for second half of April had only been around 2,000 tons of SN 150, where normally some 8,000 to 10,000 tons would have been available, with the full range of grades with all viscosities.

Prices for end-April loading are now $1265 to $1300/t for SN 150, with SN 500 between $1275 and $1325/t. These prices will rise if the market does not get a full allocation of Russian and Belarus products, leading to shortages both in the Baltic and the Black Sea regions. Numbers in excess of $1350/t for SN 150 and over $1400/t for SN 500 have been indicated for May loading. These prices have not been confirmed as completed deals, but they are witness to the shortages expected for next month, and the prices which buyers are facing.

There have been a number of hybrid blends available from traders in the Baltic, where high vis SN 900 from Uzbekistan is being blended with either SN 150 or SN 500 to promote sales of material classed as SN 300 or SN 600. This illustrates the steps some sellers and buyers will consider given the shortage of material in the market.

Turkish buyers are trying to purchase larger than normal quantities of SN 150 in the Black Sea, but so far none of these sorties into the shipping market has come to anything, due to the absence of material from Russian refineries.

Group l grades continue to be very scarce in the Middle East Gulf. Buyers in areas such Jordan and Iraq report they are on allocations from some suppliers in Saudi Arabia and Turkey. These reports remain unconfirmed, but Iranian exports have all but dried up and European barrels which would normally find a home in U.A.E. or East Africa are not forthcoming. Prices offered for what is supposedly Iranian export material offered on an ex tank U.A.E. basis are moving higher, reaching $1425/t in an offer late last week.

South African blenders have also been complaining about the lack of availability from local refineries, where there have been maintenance turnarounds. One blender commented that an interruption to some imports may have swung the balance of supply ever so slightly towards a shortening in the market.

Prices in the region remain higher than in Europe, in the region of $1520 to $1550/t for SN 150, with SN 500 marginally higher at $1535 to $1560/t. Bright stock is available in small quantities at $1650 to $!675/t. These prices are averages of delivered quantities of Group l grades to blenders throughout South Africa and neighbouring countries.

Nigeria is expecting one large cargo of some 9,000 tons of Baltic material which is currently loading from Liepaja. This cargo will likely reflect former Baltic prices, not the most recent higher numbers. Prices landed will be considerably higher than previous cargoes, around $1420 to $1460/t for SN150 and SN 500, and around $1500/t for SN 900.

Group II/II+ markets throughout the European mainland and beyond have moved up in price, reflecting costs which have risen explosively over the last couple of months. Large quantities of Group II are imported from the U.S. and Korea to meet both technological requirements and the shortages of Group l grades.

Prices are $1325 to $1360/t for the light vis grades, and $1350 to $1475/t for the heavier grades. The large spread for higher vis Group II is due to grades at the extreme end of the scale, where the worth of the material is considerably higher than the lower end of the spectrum. These prices are basis ex tank mainland European storage hubs.

Group III grades are reported at the same levels as last week: 1300 to 1325/t for 4 cSt base oils, and 1320 to 1335/t for 6 cSt, all basis ex tank. Delivered prices can be much higher, in some cases by some 200/t, due to road transportation costs and tariffs.

Crude and feed stocks have also had a quiet week, but both dated Brent and WTI have shown stronger positions due to upbeat demand forecasts. Dated Brent has rallied to around $124.20 per barrel, some $3.50/bbl up on the week. WTI is now around $112/bbl, maintaining a differential which has expanded since the civil problems in Libya and other North African and Middle East oil-linked countries began.

Feed stocks, like crude, have had a tame week. With few trading days, ICE gas oil has shown marginally firmer at around $1022/t in early trading this week, up a fraction from last week by some $13/t.

Ray Masson is director of Pumacrown Ltd., a trader and broker of petroleum products in East Grinstead, U.K. Contact him directly at

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