U.S. Base Oil Price Report


By Carolyn L. Green

SK notified the U.S. base oil market that it pushed up postings for its API Group II+ and III grades. This move completed a full round of price hikes for all Group I/II/II+ and III paraffinic categories that began in mid-February.

SK moved up its Yubase postings on Monday, April 15. The company said it upped its Group II+ 3 cSt by 25 cents/gal. For the Group III grades, SK raised 4 and 6 cSt oils by 15 cents/gal and added 25 cents/gal to the 8 cSt.

Base oil activity, in the meantime, was steady this week, players from both the buy and sell sides said. Demand continues to gain ground on some fronts, although a few participants said they thought demand had waned in early April. Nevertheless, players reiterated that market fundamentals remain in good balance while postings are also holding firm.

Despite upstream costs softening recently, base oils suppliers are hopeful that postings will continue on a stable path following the now completed round of price hikes. Sellers believe that overall balanced-to-tight availability against reasonably healthy demand should support current price points. Buyers appear to be accepting of today’s prices, but there are indications that if crude values continue to tumble, they may expect suppliers to reconsider their increases.

Vacuum gas oil differentials are also a bit softer, although still maintaining a premium of over $20 per barrel over WTI. Earlier this year, VGO had maintained very steep differentials, in the high $30/bbl over WTI on average in March. VGO premiums only began to soften recently, narrowing against weaker WTI values.

Sellers appear to be holding firm on stiffer price ideas due to generally improved demand and well-balanced inventory positions. Surplus volumes have abated over the past month, alleviated by either domestic consumption or by way of export opportunities.

Spot trade is viewed as somewhat limited, according to sources. Players say that spot offers are firm and there is not much room for negotiating lower levels. Low-ball prices that may have been available late last year and earlier this year have since waned, buyers admitted.

Sources said buyer interest for heavy vis neutrals was particularly buoyant, while demand for light and mid vis oils was not as hardy. On the naphthenic side, however, interest was robust for most all grades, but particularly strong for light and heavy vis cuts.

As mentioned last week, Calumet continues to play catch-up with back orders following a planned outage at the Shreveport, La., facility that began in late March. The plant has resumed optimum operating rates, but the company said it was still shipping back orders, and hoped all shipments will be up to date by mid May.

The Houston Lyondell Refinery continues to experience on again/off again operating woes. But Calumet, the marketer of product from this plant, continues to bridge customer orders with product from the Princeton, La., facility. Additionally, there is a planned turnaround scheduled for the Princeton refinery in June, with more details about the downtime to follow later this month.

At the close of the Tuesday, April 16, CME/Nymex session, front month light sweet crude oil futures ended the day at $88.72 per barrel, shedding $5.48/bbl from last weeks settlement at $94.20.

Brent Crude was trading at $100.39/bbl at the end of the day yesterday, dropping $5.66/bbl from its week-ago level of $106.05.

LLS (Light Louisiana Sweet) crude was trading at a premium of $14.5/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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