U.S. Base Oil Price Report


Following a couple of fairly uneventful weeks, the U.S. market appears to be gradually gathering steam, as buying interest for many base oil grades has started to improve.

This phenomenon is not completely unexpected, as there are several factors influencing fundamentals, one of them being the start of the spring production cycle.

Finished lubricant producers were heard to be slowly building inventories to prepare for a busy season, and also appeared anxious to beat potential price adjustments.

While there have not been any posted price revisions this week, participants reported that spot prices for a number of grades had moved up by a few cents week on week.

A tightening supply/demand balance on the back of improved demand, coupled with planned turnarounds in late February and March, were heard to be behind the upward shift.

Sources mentioned that within the Group I, bright stock spot prices seemed to be firming after hovering at comparatively low levels for several weeks. While bright stock is still slightly long in a few parts of the world, supply in the domestic market appears to be narrowing, sources noted.

There continue to be reports that the Excel Paralubes plant in Westlake, Louisiana, would be taken off-line for maintenance in early March. The unit has capacity of 22,200 barrels per day of Group II base oils and production is jointly marketed by Phillips 66 and Flint Hills Resources.

Talk about a planned turnaround at Chevron’s Pascagoula, Mississippi, plant also continued to be heard. The unit, which has a capacity of 25,000 b/d Group II base oils, is anticipated to be shut down for the month of March or slightly longer. There was no producer confirmation forthcoming about the turnarounds.

Additionally, Avista Oil will be starting a turnaround at its rerefinery in Peachtree City, Georgia, on Feb. 27, and is expected to restart the plant on March 6.

The rerefinery has an output of 1,200 barrels per day of API Group II and 400 b/d of Group III oils.

On the export front, Mexican consumers were in discussions with U.S. suppliers for shipments to be completed next month.

A U.S. producer was heard to have raised prices to its distributor in Mexico. This was seen as a sign that values for U.S. product may be edging up from most of the exporters in coming weeks, driving a number of buyers to pursue deals before a potential hike.

Another element that continued to impact base oil pricing was the ascent of crude oil futures, which touched three-week highs on Tuesday as OPEC members and non-OPEC members –

including Russia – appeared to comply with an agreement to curb output better than expected.

OPEC and other producers outside the group agreed in November to cut output by about 1.8 million barrels per day in an effort to reduce a global supply glut.

West Texas Intermediate futures on the CME/Nymex settled at $54.06 per barrel on Feb. 21, up 86 cents per bbl from the Feb. 14 settlement of $53.20 per bbl.

Light Louisiana Sweet wholesale spot prices closed at $55.21 per barrel on Feb. 17, up from $52.93 on Feb. 13, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. There was no trading on Feb. 20 on account of the Presidents’ Day holiday.

Brent was trading at $56.66 per bbl on the CME on Feb. 21, up 69 cents per bbl from $55.97 per bbl on Feb. 14.

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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