U.S. Base Oil Price Report


U.S. base oil demand remains at projected levels for September, while upcoming turnarounds may help keep supply/demand in balance, market sources said this week.

One paraffinic supplier characterized demand as average, with no peaks or valleys in recent weeks, and a second producer concurred that a steady flow of orders had been placed for September shipment.

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Yet a third producer noted that business had slowed for sure. A number of producers agreed that requirements had dropped slightly from August levels, but underscored that this was not surprising, as activity in September and October was expected to cool down, following a more lively summer flow.

Additionally, requirements may have been inhibited by the base stock increases which saw implementation in late August/early September, driving buyers to reduce their purchase volumes.

A few sellers worried that they may be seeing the first intimations of even slower months ahead, as demand typically tends to shrink in November and December.

Several finished lubricant producers have also initiated price increases to be implemented this month and early October in order to offset the higher base stock costs. Base oil suppliers hoped that the increases would not place a damper on October sales.

A number of turnarounds, which were heard to have been scheduled for late September/October, could help balance inventories moving forward.

There were unconfirmed reports of a planned turnaround at ExxonMobils 16,000 barrels per day Group I/II plant in Baton Rouge, La., starting in October, and a shutdown at Petro-Canadas 13,600 b/d Group II train in Mississauga, Canada, also next month. Market sources said that the white oil train at the unit would be unaffected.

Calumet will be conducting a turnaround on the catalytic dewaxing unit at its 7,000 b/d Shreveport, La., Group II plant, starting the last week of September. The turnaround is expected to last two weeks, affecting production of the companys 80, 100, and 150 cuts. Despite the maintenance shutdown, Calumet anticipates to be able to cover orders for ongoing business without delays.

Activity on the export front has weakened, with base oil demand in India having declined given the recent depreciation of the rupee against soaring domestic prices. Market participants said that there has been some buying interest for U.S. cargoes, but availability for export was slim, and Indian buyers purchasing power has also been cramped by the weakening of the local currency.

There were a couple of transactions concluded ex-U.S. Gulf to Brazil and Colombia earlier this month, but no fresh deals were mentioned this week. A Brazilian supplier was heard to have discussed the sale of bright stock into Mexico recently, and an export inquiry for a small cargo of SN150, SN500 and bright stock of U.S. origin emerged, but no further details were forthcoming.

Mexican buyers have mostly retreated to the sidelines, only securing those cargoes that are necessary to run day-to-day operations, on account of a weakening of the peso against the dollar and uncertainties in the Mexican economy.

Market sources also said that Mexican producer Pemex (Petroleos Mexicanos) had lifted its Group I posted prices by 4 to 5 percent in September from August to offset growing production costs and currency fluctuations, which may have partly contributed to the slowdown in demand.

As a result, sources heard that Pemex may have reduced production of its light-vis cuts in Salamanca over the last few weeks, but this could not be confirmed. The producer was understood to be planning a turnaround at the end of October.

A U.S. supplier mentioned inquiries for heavy-vis grades, but Mexican buyers are resisting the latest price increases implemented on U.S. product.

Participants were anxiously keeping track of tropical storm Ingrid, which made landfall in Mexico on Monday, drifting west across the Bay of Campeche, where the two largest oil fields owned by Pemex are located. Pemex temporarily suspended air and sea transportation of workers at its rigs in the Campeche area, according to a company statement released on Sept. 13.

Upstream, WTI (West Texas Intermediate) crude futures slipped as oil supply concerns have eased, following a U.S.-Russia deal to dispose of Syria’s chemical weapons.

WTI settled on the CME/Nymex at $105.42 per barrel on Tuesday, Sept. 17, down $1.97 from last Tuesdays settlement at $107.39/bbl.

Brent crude was trading at around $108.19 per barrel late yesterday on the CME, down $5.53 from $113.72 a week ago.

LLS (Light Louisiana Sweet) was trading at a premium to WTI of $1.20/bbl on Sept. 17, compared with $1.65/bbl on Sep. 10.

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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