U.S. Base Oil Price Report


More price changes reached the U.S. base oils market this week, as sources say ExxonMobil raised its API Group II+ postings.

These particular adjustments follow a full round of price moves recently completed for Group I and II oils. Since news of increased prices began to reach the market in the earlier part of February, some players believe Group III postings will be excluded from this round of price hikes. Their suspicions are based largely on the premise that availability of high-end base oils is ample.

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Direct customers of ExxonMobil said that the major producer stepped out with a notice of increased prices for its EHC postings. Both the 110 vis and 190 vis Group II+ base stock postings went up by 15 cents per gallon, effective Thursday, March 21.

The jury is still out regarding Group III prices. Some sources involved with these high priced, high quality base oils believe that, because availability is more than adequate, suppliers have not announced price hikes. However, the same sources would not be surprised if Group III producers push up postings, since all producers have been dealing with rising operating costs this year.

Even though participants report healthy buying during the past month, and customer orders continue to pick up weekly, a few players doubt that any records will be broken this year. They say this season is not likely to be anything spectacular, and it will be more-or-less an average spring fling. Nevertheless, suppliers say orders are on target, and they view supply/demand fundamentals as well balanced.

Meanwhile, spot trading activity is limited, and there is not much room to negotiate lower spot prices, according to sources. Low-ball offers that may have been available earlier this year have since been taken off the table, buyers lamented. In fact, steeply discounted spot values have not been seen for over a month, one source pointed out, and spot prices now are in the same territory as contract business.

In other news, it was understood that the Korean producer S-Oil will commence a planned turnaround at its Onsan, South Korea, location in mid-April. It is uncertain how long the routine maintenance is expected to last at the 31,000 barrels per day base oil facility, but often times scheduled shutdowns at these sized production sites can last upward of three to four weeks. The supplier has prepared for this downtime, and there should be no gaps or delays in customer deliveries, an inside source added.

Continued good news helped drive stock indices higher this week. Dow Jones Industrial average was up again and maintained levels at or near all time highs. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq showed impressive gains as well. Strong home sales and manufacturing were again the driving force behind moving stocks upward.

At the close of the Tuesday, March 26, CME/Nymex session, front month light sweet crude oil futures ended the day at $96.34 per barrel, jumping higher by $4.18/bbl from last weeks settlement at $92.16.

Brent Crude was trading at $109.29/bbl at the end of the day yesterday, recovering by $1.79/bbl from its week-ago level of $107.50.

LLS (Light Louisiana Sweet) crude was trading at a premium of $15.5/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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