U.S. Base Oil Price Report


San Joaquin Refining will be decreasing naphthenic base oil prices this week, following similar movements by Ergon, Cross Oil, Calumet and other pale oil producers.

San Joaquin communicated to its customers that it would be lowering all grades 15 cents per gallon, with an effective date of Dec. 30.

Similar price revisions had been initiated by Ergon on Dec. 16, but the amount of the reductions varied. Ergon implemented a 20 cent/gal reduction on light naphthenic products, and a 15 cent/gal markdown on its heavier grades.

Likewise, Calumet decreased its lighter grades up to 500 vis by 20 cents/gal, and its 500-vis products and heavier dropped 15 cents/gal on Dec. 22.

On the same date, Cross Oil trimmed the price of all of its products – with the exception of its CrossTrans series – by 15 cents/gal.

Sources also indicated that other pale oil producers had lowered the price of low-viscosity naphthenic base oils by 20 cents/gal and by 15 cents/gal for high viscosity products on a case-by-case basis.

The markdowns were prompted by lower crude oil prices, a seasonal slowdown in demand, and the need to protect market share and remain competitive, sources explained.

On the paraffinic side of the business, activity was fairly subdued ahead of the New Year’s holiday. A vast majority of producers had adjusted down posted prices before Christmas, and no changes were heard during the week.

In production news, further confirmation that HollyFrontier has completed a scheduled turnaround at its Tulsa, Okla., base oils plant emerged this week. The 9,500 barrels-per-day API Group I plant had been shut down in early November for maintenance, and the company confirmed in a Dec. 28 press release that the fourth quarter turnaround at the Tulsa West Crude and Lubricants units was complete.

During the quarter, the Tulsa refinery also experienced an unplanned shutdown of its Fluid Catalytic Cracking Unit (FCCU). Repairs have been completed and the FCCU has successfully restarted, the company stated.

Base oil market participants continue to watch developments on the crude oil front with anxious eyes. Oil prices rose on Tuesday ahead of potentially bullish inventory data to be released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration on Wednesday, and as investors moved to close out bearish bets before years end, the Wall Street Journal reported.

However, U.S. and Brent oil, as well as gasoline and diesel futures, all registered new lows in the last two weeks, dating back to 2004 and 2009.

Analysts predicted that crude oil prices would remain under pressure as OPEC countries will not be lowering production rates, Iran is preparing to resume oil exports, and the global oil glut will likely continue if demand does not improve substantially.

West Texas Intermediate settled on the CME/Nymex at $37.87 per barrel on Dec. 29, up $1.73/bbl from its Dec. 22 settlement of $36.14.

Light Louisiana Sweet wholesale spot prices closed at $37.59/bbl on Dec. 28, according to data from the EIA.

Brent was trading at $37.79/bbl on the CME on Dec. 29, up $1.68/bbl from $36.11 a week earlier.

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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