EMEA Base Oil Price Report

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With few trading days over the past week, base oil markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa have been exceptionally quiet. Most players have been absent from their desks and will not return until after the New Year holidays.

There have been murmurings of prices starting to firm, but deals reported until the Christmas holiday did not reflected any major increases, although some buyers tried to impose markups in offers that were received last week.

The price for dated deliveries of Brent crude oil was around $56 per barrel yesterday, while West Texas Intermediate was around $54, neither benchmark much changed from the previous week. ICE LS Gas Oil around $10 per metric ton in Europe to $489/t, perhaps because of colder weather hitting the continent. Crude front month is now February, whilst gas oil is for January settlement.

European Group I prices are unchanged from last week in view of very thin trading and a flat market with no indications of prices moving upwards. Light solvent neutrals are $520/t-$535/t, while SN500 and SN600 are $565/t-$585/t and bright stocks $795/t-$820/t. These prices refer to large parcels of Group I base oils supplied or offered FOB from mainland European supply points.

Local Group I prices were also unchanged this week. Many blenders have shortened hours or closed entirely until after the New Year. The differential between domestic and export prices remains assessed 25/t-85/t.

Some Group II suppliers importing from the United States have announced price increases for that market, and other U.S. producers usually fall into line. Such price changes are usually passed on to Europe, which has relatively little of its own Group II supply base. Besides those hikes at the supply source, Group II prices in Europe face upward pressure because of the euros recent devaluation in relation to the dollar, which raises the cost of local sales conducted in euros.

Sources reported one cargo of Group II traveling from Europe to the Far East – a shipment that may be covering for a maintenance turnaround at a South Korean plant.

Prices for fully approved Group II oils were unchanged: $555/t-$585/t for light grades and $725/t-$785/t for 500 neutral and 600 neutral, basis CIF main ports Europe. Ex-tank prices are around $25/t-$40/t higher.

Although nothing has relieved the over-supply of Group III oils in European markets, no reports of price changes were gleaned from buyers this week. Prices for partially approved 4 centiStoke and 6cst grades remain around $660/t, basis FCA Northwestern Europe, though sellers were trying to increase euro prices to offset exchange rate fluctuations.

Prices for fully approved Group IIIs remain 705/t-735/t for the 4cst and 6cst grades and around 670/t for 8cSt, FCA Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam. CIF prices for large cargoes of Group III are now assessed $25/t-$50/t lower than the equivalent dollar prices for FCA sales.

Baltic and Black Seas

Baltic shipments have slowed during the holiday period with only one cargo reported moving from a lower Baltic port to ARA. No more large cargoes have been announced for Nigeria, but with suggestions that prices may rise after the New Year, some West African receivers have tried to bid for material that would load in January. Most distributors and resellers are not prepared to offer, at least until next week or even into the second half January, after the Orthodox Christmas celebrations, when the market may gain clarity.

FOB prices for Russian SN150, SN500 and SN900 are unchanged this week at $495/t-$520/t, $525/t-$545/t and $595/t-$620/t, respectively.

Black Sea sources report that a large cargo of some 12,000 tons was loaded in Kavkaz, Russia, for delivery to the United Arab Emirates and Singapore. Presumably this cargo will include SN500 and SN900. There are few reported parcels reaching Gebze, Turkey, this week, but there are a number of enquiries with shipbrokers for January cargoes to be loaded at Mediterranean and Red Sea ports for Turkish importers. A number of January enquiries for Mediterranean-sourced Group l base oils are in the pipeline, with around 15,000 tons marked down for import into Derince alone.

Prices for SN150 are $535/t-$555/t, with SN500 and SN600 at $605/t-$635/t. Bright stock shipped in combination with solvent neutrals from Spanish and Italian suppliers is available at around $880/t, CIF Turkish ports.

Red Sea trade appears to include the previously reported Sudanese enquiry, which has been covered by incumbent suppliers from Yanbual Bahr, Saudi Arabia. There are other enquiries for Red Sea-sourced Group l bright stock going into Gebze. In spite of a Suez Canal passage, this trade would appear to work, and it may be the start of a supply alternative to oils from Spain or Italy. No prices were disclosed for this business.

Middle East

Reports from the Middle East Gulf show more than 10,000 tons in two cargoes of Iranian base stocks moving out of Bandar Bushehr and Bandar Imam Khomeini into the West Coast of India receivers. Prices may have risen again this week, although no confirmation could be found from suppliers. FOB prices for superior spec SN500 may now be around $620/t-$630/t. Prices for Iranian SN500 imported to U.A.E. ports and re-exported have also increased and are offered at $625 FCA, or $640 FOB, but for slightly lower spec material.

Offers for incoming Group l cargoes from Brazil and the U.S. remain on the desks of traders and blenders in the U.A.E., but with longer lead times and the possibility that prices may be subject to review this week or next, buyers are shying away from these options. Prices are reportedly unchanged this week, $588/t, CIF, for SN500 and $592 for SN600. Bright stock offers have been withdrawn, and re-offers may or may not be forthcoming, with one trader indicating that West Africa may be considered a better destination option than the U.A.E. European and Red Sea material is expected to be delivered at around $605/t for SN150, $675/t for SN500, and $920/t for high spec bright stock.

Eight thousand tons of Group III from Al Ruwais, U.A.E., is loading for Mumbai anchorage with FOB prices unchanged from last week – $545/t for 4cSt and 6cSt grades and $495/t for 8cSt.

There are no Group II trades reported this week. With source increases in the pipeline, prices are expected to move upwards and would reflect numbers between $505/t-$525/t for light viscosity grades and 500N and 600N at $660/t-$675/t, CIF Middle East Gulf.

Africa

South African agents have reported that they may be expecting a large base oil cargo loading in the United Kingdom and bound for Durban. The 15,000-ton cargo will consist of a number of grades that may include Group III and Group I products.

North African routes are quiet this week with few reported movements although there are a number of inter-company trades around, with bright stock moving from Portugal into Greece, but no Italian cargoes, either from Sicily or Livorno.

There were no Nigerian receivers or traders to report this week, hence prices remain unaltered with indications of Group I material landed into Apapa, at $625/t for SN150. SN500 is assessed at $675/t-$698/t and bright stock in large quantities at $915/t-$930/t.

Baltic grades may have been raised after this week and are indicated at around $665/t for SN150, $695/t for SN500 and SN900 offered at around $845/t, CFR/CIF Apapa.

Ray Masson is director of Pumacrown Ltd., a trader and broker of petroleum products in London, U.K. Contact him directly atpumacrown@email.com.

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