U.S. Base Oil Price Report


Paraffinic and naphthenic base stock price reductions – from 10 cents to 40 cents per gallon – swept through the market this week, causing most buyers to breathe a long-awaited sigh of relief.

Leading the pack in the paraffinic sector, ExxonMobil announced price cuts of 10 cents to 40 cents per gallon for its API Group I and II+ paraffinics, according to direct buyers. The company reduced its 100 viscosity grade 40 cents/gal, lowered SN 150 by 35 cents/gal and its 330 vis and 600 vis grades 20 cents/gal. Bright stock postings moved down 15 cents/gal, while ExxonMobils Group II+ posted prices went down 10 cents/gal. ExxonMobils price revisions were effective Tuesday, Oct. 28.

Buyers noted that the large refiner did not adjust its Group I 275 vis; that posted price remains unchanged. Buyers also said that ExxonMobil revoked its sales allocation program but will remain on a sales control plan for most grades. The exception is that sales allocations continue for 275 vis and EHC 30 grades until further notice.

Motiva has not moved prices, but confirms that force majeure has been eliminated. However, the company remains on sales allocations. Flint Hills Resources, which reduced posted prices Oct. 7, has also ended force majeure but is keeping a close eye on its supply situation.

Also effective yesterday, Sunoco largely mirrored ExxonMobils price drops. Sunoco pushed down its SN 70 grade by 40 cents/gal, and its 150 visslid 35 cents/gal. Sunoco lowered its 250 neutral 30 cents/gal and its SN 500 by 20 cents/gal. Bright stock went down 15 cents/gal.

On Thursday, Oct. 30, Calumet will also adjust prices down. The companys Group I 60 vis will drop 30 cents/gal, 700 vis will go down 15 cents/gal, and bright stock will edge lower by 10 cents/gal. Calumets Group II products will be decreased 30 cents/gal for 75 to 100 neutrals, while the 150 vis will slide 25 cents, and the 325 vis drops 20 cents/gal.

Valero will push down its posted prices on Friday, Oct. 31, largely tracking the ExxonMobil initiative. Solvent neutral 100 base oil will be lowered 40 cents/gal, 165 vis will reduce by 35 cents/gal, while 500 and 700 grades will go down 20 cents/gal, and bright stock will be decreased by 15 cents/gal. Valeros Group II 220 vis base stock posting will shed 30 cents/gal.

On Saturday, Nov. 1, SK E&P will decrease all its Group II+, III and III+ YUBASE base oils by 10 cents per gallon.

All naphthenic producers announced 30 cent per gallon price cuts across the board for pale oils. In many cases,customers will have benefitted from two rounds of decreases this month.

Ergon, leading the pack of producers, trimmed prices on its line up of pale oils last Thursday, Oct. 23. Cross lowered its naphthenics on Monday, Oct. 27, and Nynas issued revised lower prices on Tuesday, Oct. 28. San Joaquin Refining will slash pale oil values on Thursday, Oct. 30. Calumet plans to decrease all its pale oils on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

The recent price decreases were compelled largely by lower raw material costs as well as increased pressure from the buy side to lower postings, sources said. From the supply side, it was pointed out that some price cuts were not as big as buyers may have pushed for, but the smaller reductions reflect the still-tight availability of certain base oils as well as low inventory positions.

Taking into consideration the recently announced round of naphthenic price cuts, pale oil 100 vis grade FOB values are pegged on average at $3.90 to $4.20/gallon. Pale oil 500 vis is priced in a much broader band of $3.80 to $4.60/gal due to the various applications requiring this grade. This includes base oils, process oils, technical oils and industrial uses.

Pale oil 2000 values have tumbled, with the latest spot indications heard around the $3.55 to $3.95 cents/gal FOB level. Depending on supplier, availability of certain grades remains tighter, while other pale oils are becoming more readily available, sellers said.

Regarding production issues, a few market watchers reported that the ExxonMobil Beaumont, Texas, plant was still struggling to restart following significant damage caused by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. The Motiva Port Arthur, Texas, refinery was said to be running, although it was not established whether output had reached full rates. The San Joaquin naphthenics refinery in Bakersfield, Calif., was back on line and was expected to have reached optimum capacity this week. The facility encountered production issues earlier this month and lost 15 days of production. Petro-Canadas planned 30-day downtime is ongoing, with a start-up anticipated mid-November for the Mississauga, Ontario, operation, sources said.

At the close of the Tuesday, Oct. 28, NYMEX session, front month light sweet crude futures settled at $62.73 per barrel, down $8.16/bbl from the week earlier settlement at $70.89. A month ago, on Sept. 30, crude closed at $100.64.

Carolyn L. Green, based in Houston, can be reached directly at carolynlgreen@gmail.com.

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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