U.S. Base Oil Price Report


Following a burst of pricing activity the previous weeks, whereby the vast majority of U.S. base oil producers initiated price increases of 5 to 25 cents per gallon, the market has now settled down to regular business.

On the paraffinic side, Chevron, Motiva, Exxon, Calumet, Paulsboro Refining, Flint Hills Resources, HollyFrontier, Phillips 66 and SK announced increases between 5 and 25 cents per gallon, depending on the producer and the cut, with effective dates spanning from July 26 to August 23.

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Similarly, in the naphthenic segment, Calumet, Cross Oil, San Joaquin and Ergon lifted prices by 15 to 20 cents/gallon. The hikes were implemented between July 30 and Aug. 23. Nynas also raised its prices, but information about the amount of the increase was not immediately available.

A major paraffinic supplier was heard to have pushed back the implementation of its August increase to Sept. 1 for a number of its large-volume customers, according to sources. There has also been some resistance to the 25-cent/gal increase sought by Chevron, with buyer sources indicating that a slightly lower increase was being negotiated instead.

Participants have now shifted their focus to September business, with demand said to be generally healthy and requirements for the high-viscosity grades achieving top marks in terms of order volumes. Sellers said that some contract customers have a lag in their price increases, so they are still buying at old prices until the end of August, which has resulted in very strong demand for some grades.

In the API Group III sector, suppliers said that requirements have been holding at fairly steady levels, but September could bring about a slight reduction in demand, as it is traditionally a slower month. Before the posted price increases, sources said that prices had softened, and that transactions were being concluded within a $4.50 to $4.75/gal range delivered to U.S. buyers, although there were snippets of lower prices also being heard.

The recent base stock price increases were expected to be passed down the supply chain to the lubricants segment and other finished products over the next few weeks, as many of these products pricing are directly tied to base oil values.

In production news, there continue to be reports that the Motiva Port Arthur refinery has been plagued by a recent fire and several technical problems, but it appears the impacted processing area is mainly related to fuels operations. Industry sources said that neither the base oil plant, nor the unit that processes feedstock for base oils have been affected, and that the producer has been meeting all of its customers requirements. The unit where the fire occurred is already scheduled to be restarted later this week, sources added, which may be a sign that the damage was not as extensive as previously thought.

Upstream, WTI (West Texas Intermediate) crude futures climbed on political tensions between the U.S. and Syria, and a reduction in crude oil production in Libya amid protests, according to Bloomberg.

WTI settled on the CME/Nymex at $109.01 per barrel on Tuesday, Aug. 27, up $4.05 from last Tuesdays settlement at $104.96/bbl.

Brent crude was trading around $114.36 per barrel late yesterday on the CME, up from $109.99 a week ago.

LLS (Light Louisiana Sweet) was trading at a premium to WTI of $3.20/bbl on Aug. 26, compared with $4.80/bbl on Aug. 19.

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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