U.S. Base Oil Price Report


U.S. market fundamentals are viewed as steady, with fairly tight availability of a number of grades against reasonably stable demand.

The typical slowdown which affects activity in September is more noticeable in some base oil segments than others, namely in the lighter-viscosity group of oils, given that orders for the heavy grades seem slightly more robust.

In the API Group I tier, pricing for the heavy-vis cuts and bright stock has remained healthy “with no discounts” seen in the domestic market, according to sources.

This could partly be attributed to the fact that the heavy grades are snug, both within the Group I and II segments, and at least one supplier was heard to have placed its Group II cut on allocation, leading buyers to search for alternative sources of product. As a result, a couple of suppliers have been contacted by buyers who do not regularly purchase product from them.

Supplies are expected to become long over the fall/winter season, but a reported turnaround at Chevron’s Richmond, Calif., base oil plant in October, may help keep supply and demand more in balance, market sources said.

However, there was no producer confirmation about the shutdown schedule at the Richmond facility, which can produce 20,700 barrels per day of Group II base oils.

On the naphthenic front, sales have been characterized as average in recent weeks, with supply deemed balanced against demand.

No sector-wide price adjustments have been mentioned since May, with the exception of spot decreases granted by suppliers into a few accounts with the aim of securing additional volumes.

It was also heard that Ergon would be offering its new bright stock commercially by the end of the month.

Earlier this year, Ergon shut down its 22,000 b/d naphthenic base oils plant in Vicksburg, Miss., for a three-week maintenance program and completion of modifications to a crude distillation unit.

A new hydrotreater at the facility provides the supplier the capability to manufacture more highly refined products, including a new bright stock. The plant’s additional capacity will be 3,000 b/d. Part of the bright stock output is expected to be allotted to exports, sources said.

Buying interest for paraffinic base stocks has been slightly disappointing on the export front. Mexican buyers have mostly retreated to the sidelines, only securing those cargoes that are necessary to run day-to-day operations, on account of uncertain economic prospects and fluctuating feedstock costs.

Demand from Europe has also been flat because of difficulties determining price direction. Some players preferred to wait for the outcome of an energy meeting Sept. 26-28 in Algiers, where OPEC members were anticipated to discuss a potential output freeze to help stabilize oil prices.

This week, crude prices fell to six-week lows and then recovered on Tuesday, with U.S. crude rising as much as 1 percent, as traders were encouraged by OPEC comments that a possible production freeze agreement would last longer than expected.

WTI futures on the CME/Nymex settled at $43.44 per barrel on Sep. 20, down $1.46 per bbl from the Sep. 13 settlement of $44.90 per bbl.

Light Louisiana Sweet wholesale spot prices closed at $44.97 per bbl on Sep. 19, down from $48.03 per bbl on Sep. 12, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Brent was trading at $45.88 per bbl on the CME on Sep. 20, down $1.22 per bbl from $47.10 per bbl on Sep. 13.

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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