U.S. Base Oil Price Report


There was a slight pick-up in demand this week in the U.S. base oils market compared to last weeks slow crawl.

Following the recently completed round of price hikes in both the API Group I and II categories, no other posted price announcements were revealed. The jury is still out on whether Group II+ and III postings will be altered, sources said.

Base oil activity was described as generally steady overall, with some downstream segments showing strong buying conditions, while other sectors are not quite as jubilant. Suppliers reiterated that total volumes are at targeted levels for March, but whether quantities will exceed expectations during this years March-to-June buying season remains unclear at this juncture.

Global demand remains generally sluggish, but sellers say they have seen a modest uptick in exports during the past month. This has helped keep overall inventories balanced in the United States, along with the recent spike in domestic spot buying. Some market watchers suspect that plants may be operating below capacity to minimize a possible over-supply situation.

On the West Coast, San Joaquin Refinings planned maintenance shutdown, which commenced on March 1 and was to last roughly two and half weeks, was delayed by about six days and is now expected to be completed later this week, the company reported. Barring no further delays, production should be back to normal soon.

In related news, sources said that Lyondell Houston Refining encountered some quality issues earlier this month. This has resulted in the production of off-spec naphthenic oils 100 and 300. The plant is presently running at reduced rates, but sources are hopeful that the facility will resume normal operations and typical product qualities within the next 30 days. Meanwhile, Calumet, which markets the output from the Houston Refining location, is bridging customer orders with inventories from its own Princeton, La., facility.

After losing some steam last Friday and then rebounding for a short time, stock markets dipped once again around midday on Tuesday. But despite this moderate gyration, record high levels are still being maintained, analysts pointed out.

Fresh signs that the U.S. housing market continues at a strong pace were seen as positive news for stock markets. Also, investors did not seem to be too influenced by the negative economic developments in Cyprus. However, the banking crisis in Cyprus was cited as the main culprit leading Brent crude futures prices lower, energy experts noted. As of Tuesday, Brent futures dipped to a three-month low.

At the close of the Tuesday, March 19, CME/Nymex session, front month light sweet crude oil futures ended the day at $92.16 per barrel, losing 38 cents/bbl from last weeks settlement at $92.54.

Brent Crude was trading at $107.50/bbl at the end of the day yesterday, shedding $2.13/bbl from its week-ago level of $109.63.

LLS (Light Louisiana Sweet) crude was trading at a premium of $22.25/bbl to WTI on Tuesday.

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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