U.S. Base Oil Report


U.S. base oil demand is showing signs of bouncing back, while posted prices remain unchanged on fairly steady fundamentals.

While crude oil futures are still volatile, values have been teetering within a narrower range around $48-52 per barrel, allowing for base oil producers to maintain a certain degree of price stability.

West Texas Intermediate futures fluctuated during the day on Monday on reports that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries could hold an emergency meeting if oil prices keep declining.

However, an unidentified OPEC member said on Tuesday that the organization has no plans for an emergency meeting and will meet as scheduled on June 5 in Vienna.

WTI futures settled on the CME/Nymex at $49.28 per barrel on Feb. 24, down $4.25 per barrel from a settlement at $53.53 per barrel on Feb. 17.

Brent crude was trading around $58.90 per barrel on the CME on Feb. 23, down $3.63 per barrel from $62.53 per barrel a week ago.

A short-lived jump in crude oil prices in the previous week had fueled base oil requirements as consumers were concerned higher crude oil values would eventually result in steeper base oil numbers.

On the rerefining front, a source said that business had experienced a real uptick because the recent price decreases on finished lubricants had spurred base oil purchases.

Additionally, given that most blenders raw material inventories were low, consumers were returning to the market to replenish stocks as they were under the impression that prices have reached a floor.

However, many buyers still expected competition among base oil suppliers to remain strong in coming months as supply continues to outpace demand, although some grades, such as API Group I bright stock, are showing a slight tightening.

There were reports of competitive activity in the spot segment as well, but this trend is anticipated to fade once requirements for the spring season start to pick up in earnest, suppliers said.

There has been sustained interest for exports to the east coast of South America over the last few weeks, and Mexican buyers have also been in discussions with U.S. suppliers regarding Group I cargoes, according to sources.

In production news, the Steelworkers Union (USW) strike, which started on Feb. 1 and has caused workers to walk out at nine U.S. refineries, is ongoing and has now spread to more refineries, including Motiva’s Port Arthur, Texas, and Convent and Norco, La. refineries.

In a statement posted on its website, Motiva said it had received notice from the USW that a strike would begin at its Port Arthur refinery when the existing labor contract expired at midnight on Feb. 20.

Motiva has activated contingency plans, allowing the company to continue running operations safely, the statement added. Motiva said that the contingency plans, which are updated a year in advance of labor-contract negotiations, ensure a safe and orderly handover of operations at all three sites from union-represented employees to fully-trained and qualified Motiva employees, who will safely operate the refineries.

The producer did not comment on whether the strike had affected base oil production or shipments at the Port Arthur facility, which has a capacity of 40,300 barrels per day of Group II base oils.

Sources familiar with the negotiations between USW and U.S. refiners – represented by Shell -said talks may resume on Feb. 25.

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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