U.S. Base Oil Price Report


The long, uninterrupted slide in U.S. base oil prices ended with Chevron and Flint Hills Resources stepping out with posted price increases just as SK rounded up a string of markdowns with a decrease of its own.

Chevron will be increasing its API Group II 100R grade 15 cents per gallon, and its 220R and 600R oils will go up 20 cents/gal on March 9, to reflect the current supply/demand balance and market conditions, a company source explained.

Flint Hills Resources communicated that it would be lifting all of its posted base oil prices 15 cents/gal, also with an effective date of March 9.

While these upward price movements were brewing, late last week, SK communicated that it was reducing posted prices of its YUBASE base oils (Group II+ and III) by 15 cents/gal, effective March 7.

This decrease follows a series of paraffinic price reductions which started in mid-February, and resulted in markdowns between 10 to 25 cents/gal, depending on the grade and the producer.

The price decreases had been prompted by declining crude oil values and ample base oil availability, but the trend appears to suddenly have changed direction, leading to fresh upward price revisions.

Market sources said that given the rebound in crude oil prices, and a tightening of Group II supplies on the back of a couple of plant turnarounds, it was not surprising to see prices move up.

Group II producer Motiva recently restarted one of its base oil trains at its Port Arthur, Texas, refinery, following a scheduled turnaround, while the Excel Paralubes unit is also running at normal rates after completion of routine maintenance.

The plant, which has capacity to produce 22,200 barrels per day of Group II base oils, was taken off-line in late February and was brought back on stream this week, market sources said. The base stock manufactured at the Excel Paralubes facility is jointly marketed by Phillips 66 and Flint Hills Resources.

It was also heard that both the Motiva and the Excel Paralubes turnarounds had led to a tightening of the producers’ inventories. Sources were concerned that Phillips 66 and Flint Hill Resources would not have enough product to meet all requirements over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, it was heard that Mexican producer Pemex had lowered domestic prices for March. This move was exerting pressure on U.S. Group I product expected to be exported to Mexico, with prices for bright stock said to be particularly competitive.

On the naphthenic base oils front, Cross Oil announced that it had lifted its force majeure, as its base oil plant in Smackover, Ark., was back up and running, following an unplanned shutdown caused by a fire in January. The producer was expected to be able to catch up with its commitments in the next few weeks.

In other production news, it was heard that the Vertex Energy rerefinery in Columbus, Ohio -which can produce 1,500 barrels per day of Group II oils – had been shut down after a fire that broke out on Feb. 14, but producer confirmation could not be obtained. The rerefinery was acquired by Vertex from Heartland Petroleum in Dec. 2014.

Upstream, West Texas Intermediate futures tumbled on Tuesday after a six-week rally that saw crude push to the $40 per barrel mark. Futures fell as U.S. inventories are expected to be higher than previously thought, suggesting that markets have not yet made a full recovery.

WTI settled on the CME/Nymex at $36.50 per barrel on March 8, up $2.10/bbl from its March 1 settlement of $34.40/bbl.

Light Louisiana Sweet wholesale spot prices closed at $40.40 on March 7, compared with $35.09/bbl on Feb. 29, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Brent was trading at $39.65/bbl on the CME on March 8, up $2.84/bbl from $36.81 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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