U.S. Base Oil Price Report


While base oil postings were unchanged, a lot of competitive pricing seemed to be taking place behind the scenes. Speculation also arose about the impacts that President-elect Donald Trumps trade policies could have on base oils.

Following the initial surprise about the election results, some participants expressed concerns about potential trade policy changes that might affect the base oil industry in coming months.

However, many players expected that few – if any – immediate revisions would take place, as it would take some time before any new policies could receive approval.

A number of participants appeared optimistic that certain restrictions and regulations would be relaxed in the future, and ultimately benefit the oil and petrochemical industries.

In terms of base oil pricing, no posted price adjustments were announced during the week, but market players said that several suppliers continued to grant temporary competitive allowances and reduced spot values to entice buyers and reduce inventories ahead of Dec. 31.

The amounts of the discounts varied, leading to a wide price disparity among suppliers.

Some spot transactions were heard to be taking place at very low levels, close to production costs. I doubt that some of these sellers are making a profit, a source said.

A few cargoes were said to have been booked to Europe, and there were reports that a U.S. producer was selling large volumes to Mexico at very low prices as well, particularly of API Group I grades.

Mexican producer Pemex had been expected to restart its Group I unit in Salamanca following a month-long shutdown in early November, but a small explosion at the refinery has apparently delayed the start-up process of the base oil plant.

Despite potential opportunities to sell U.S. product to Mexican buyers due to the shortage of local material, the current exchange rate has hampered the conclusion of business, sources explained. Pemex was also heard to have reduced its list prices at the beginning of the month.

There continued to be rumblings that Group II/III material from the Ruwais, United Arab Emirates, base oil plant – operated by Takreer, which is Abu Dhabi National Oil Co.s refining arm – was being offered in the United States at very attractive prices, and that a third large cargo was scheduled to arrive shortly.

However, participants maintained that not many blenders would be able to use this product as it lacked approvals. Domestic sellers offering similar grades said that so far, they had not had to match the steep discounts, or otherwise compete with the levels being discussed for product from the Middle East.

Upstream, West Texas Intermediate futures jumped almost 6 percent on Tuesday, recovering from recent lows on expectations that OPEC would agree to a production freeze at a meeting on Nov. 30.

WTI futures on the CME/Nymex settled at $45.81 per barrel on Nov. 15, up 83 cents per bbl from the Nov. 8 settlement of $44.98 per bbl.

Light Louisiana Sweet wholesale spot prices closed at $44.39 per barrel on Nov. 14, down from $46.03 a week ago, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Brent was trading at $46.95 per bbl on the CME on Nov. 15, up 91 cents per bbl from $46.04 per bbl on Nov. 8.

In industry news, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers Association announced at its International Lubricants and Waxes Conference in Houston last week that next years meeting would be held in conjunction with the International Petrochemical Conference in San Antonio, Texas, March 26-28.

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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