U.S. Base Oil Price Report


Activity in the base oil market was somewhat subdued ahead of the U.S. presidential elections and an industry meeting in Houston, Texas, later this week.

Participants were expected to meet at the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers Association International Lubricants and Waxes conference on Nov. 10-11, with discussions anticipated to center on industry innovations, low viscosity lubricants, and future industry goals.

Base oil suppliers had reported a slightly surprising, but welcome pickup in orders over the last couple of weeks, likely triggered by concerns that base oil prices might go up as crude oil futures had briefly touched the $50 per barrel mark.

However, it appears that crude lingering in the $40s/bbl, and the typical slowdown in base stock demand in the last quarter may have dampened some of the upward price pressure observed in late October. “With the crude price drop the past week, the idea of an increase has lost some momentum,” a source conceded.

In contrast to a fairly quiet domestic market scenario, participants noted that several opportunities had emerged on the export front. The downward pressure on export prices has abated and numbers appear to have hit the bottom, with a few cargoes heard to have been booked into Europe, according to sources.

In Mexico, there were reports that producer Pemex was in the process of restarting its Salamanca Group I base oil plant, following a month-long shutdown caused by feedstock supply issues. Nevertheless, there was still buying interest from Mexican players for all base oil grades of U.S. origin, sources noted.

In the naphthenic arena, last week, Cross Oil communicated that it was implementing a 10 cent per gallon price increase on all light and heavy viscosity pale oils.

The increment was fueled by higher crude oil values in recent months– which have squeezed margins–and fairly balanced market conditions.

No other price revisions have emerged so far in that segment of the business. Sources suspected that despite the movements in crude oil pricing, producers would be very cautious about issuing price revisions as demand is usually soft ahead of the holidays, and sellers prefer to maintain pricing to encourage purchasing.

Upstream, West Texas Intermediate futures climbed early in the week following news that Hillary Clinton would not face charges over her using a private server to email while she was Secretary of State.

However, traders concerns that OPEC members would not be able to reach a deal about a production freeze also weighed on crude oil prices.

Furthermore, OPEC lowered its outlook for in the next few years in its annual World Oil Outlook published Tuesday.

The group believes that its reference basket price will hit $60 per barrel by 2020. Last year, OPEC’s oil price assumption was $80/bbl in 2020.

WTI futures on the CME/Nymex settled at $44.98 per barrel on Nov. 8, down $1.69 per bbl from the Nov. 1 settlement of $46.67 per bbl.

Light Louisiana Sweet wholesale spot prices closed at $46.03 per barrel on Nov. 7, down from $48.18 a week ago, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Brent was trading at $46.04 per bbl on the CME on Nov. 8, down $2.29 per bbl from $48.33 per bbl on Nov. 1.

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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