China seeks base oils from Europe, US on low Asia supply

By: Whitney Shi | 03 May 2016

focus story

SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Chinese importers have been seeking base oils from Europe and the US since April as supply of high-viscosity Group II grades in Asia is tight, industry sources said on Tuesday.

Taiwanese producer Formosa Petrochemical Corp (FPCC), which is a major supplier to China, cut its Group II term supply to China by half for June ahead of a turnaround at its plant late next month.

South Korean refiners also reduced their Group II spot supply to China in view of robust demand from southeast Asia and India, market sources said.

Tight supply, together with robust demand from downstream lubricant producers, supported Group II base oils prices in China for the whole of April.

Spot prices of N150 grade gained yuan (CNY) 225/tonne from end-March to CNY6,275/tonne, while the N500 grade increased by CNY650/tonne over the same period to CNY8,400/tonne, according to ICIS data.

Chinese importers have been aggressive in procuring cargoes from the spot import market as they generated as much as CNY1,000/tonne in margins last month, industry sources said.

A deal was concluded last month with US producer Chevron for about 10,000 tonnes of Group II base oil supply, with the cargoes scheduled to arrive in China in early June, according to major Chinese importers.

Market sources said that base oils' import cost is currently high, but Chinese buyers are betting that Asia’s supply of Group II base oil will remain short in May-June amid a seasonal spike in demand from lubricant companies in China, the importers said.

Because of surging prices of Group II base oils, some lubricant producers have taken to substituting them with Group I grades, market sources said.

Group I SN500 is currently priced lower than the Group II product by around CNY1,000/tonne, according to ICIS data.

China relies on supply of high-viscosity Group I base oils from southeast Asia following the shutdown of domestic plants by energy giant PetroChina due to poor margins.

But supply in southeast Asia is also tight amid a pick-up in domestic demand, prompting Chinese importers to seek cargoes from Europe.

A deal has been concluded for the import of 8,000 tonnes of Group I SN500 from a refiner in Poland, with the cargo scheduled to arrive in China in late June, according to the importers.

Chinese importers were not so concerned about the current lack of margins, as import costs were almost the same as the mainstream traded prices of base oils in China.

They expect supply to remain tight in China next month, market sources said.

Some market players, however, raised concerns that demand could weaken in June, when the traditional lull in consumption starts.

If more deals are concluded in May and imports from Europe and the US remain large, stocks in China will climb in July and weigh on prices, they said.

Graph reports Find out more about our news service »
Be the first to receive breaking news

ICIS News ensures you are able to react quickly to market changes, minimise risk and seize opportunities while staying competitive in this dynamic industry.

Our news service brings you all of the following:

  1. Access to real-time news for key chemical markets around the globe
  2. Exclusive plants and projects news, including the latest on capacity, outputs and shutdowns
  3. Expert analysis pieces examining key market trends and hot issues
  4. Force majeures, closures and deals and their impact on commodity prices
  5. A searchable archive with over 1.4m articles spanning 10 years
Request a free trial of the news service »
Stay abreast of the Asia and Middle East markets

Pricing information

Support your daily trading activities with immediate access to the latest price assessments and developments for over 180 commodities across the dynamic Asia and Middle East markets. Information includes:

  • Spot price assessments (CFR, FOB, DEL)
  • Key price drivers and market developments
  • Upstream and downstream information
  • Plant maintenance schedules and outages
Request a free sample report »

China annual reports

The ICIS China Annual Report anticipates where the Chinese market is headed and guides your production and investment strategies by providing:

  • Supply and demand forecast data and analysis
  • Import/export levels and capacity expansion plans
  • Downstream demand overview and outlook
  • Analysis on key issues and developments in the market

Price forecast reports

Produced by ICIS Consulting, our Asia forecast reports identify where prices are heading, providing the insights you need to make confident and faster decisions. The reports includes a rolling 12-month price forecast, sentiment index on price expectations, information on upstream feedstocks as well as summary capacity and trade flow data in the Asian region.

Find out more about our price forecast reports »

Supply and demand database

ICIS gives you access to an online database, providing an end-to-end perspective across the global petrochemical markets. Data includes import and export volumes, consumption, plant capacities and production – from 1978 up to 2030 – by product, country and region..

Enquire about the supply and demand database »

Latest news from ICIS

Market outlook: Mixed fortunes for aromatics

...further lengthen the market. Over the next few years, we will also see an increase in capacity through the styrene chain in the Middle East and Egypt.... Thu, 27 Oct 2016

Swiss Clariant prioritises US, Asia expansions over low-growth Europe - CFO

...Swiss Clariant prioritises US, Asia expansions over low-growth Europe - CFO. Jonathan Lopez. Interview article by Jonathan Lopez LONDON (ICIS)--Clariant’s... Fri, 28 Oct 2016

Asia MEG on third week of gains amid bullish market sentiment

...Asia MEG on third week of gains amid bullish market sentiment. Eric Su. SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Spot monoethylene glycol (MEG) prices in Asia are poised for a... Fri, 28 Oct 2016

US Amazon now sells DVDs, books and caustic soda

...and dyes, drilling and completion fluids, paints, coatings and various resins and polymers. TRI gets much of its chemicals from Asia and has a sourcing... Wed, 26 Oct 2016

No Covestro disposals needed to fund Bayer's Monsanto takeover

...encouragingly in Europe and North America. Sales edged forward year on year in the Asia/Pacific region but declined in the Latin America/Africa/Middle East... Wed, 26 Oct 2016

Asia gas market to stay tepid until 2020 on weak fundamentals

...gas market, Singapore minister for trade and industry S Iswaran said at the 4th Gas Asia Summit. “With Asia accounting for more than 70% of global liquefied... Wed, 26 Oct 2016