US base oil re-refining advances amid challenges

14 January 2014 16:13 Source:ICIS News

US base oil re-refining advances amid challenges By Judith Taylor

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The growing production capacity of re-refined base oils in the US is a step forward for the industry but is taking place at a time of challenges posed by base oil oversupply.

“We are getting to the point of survival of the fittest,” one re-refiner said.

FCC Environmental at Baltimore, Maryland, is scheduled to bring on 2,000 bbl/day of new Group II re-refining production in 2014, while NexLube at Tampa, Florida, brought 1,300 bbl/day new Group II output into the market for 2013.

These capacities add to Avista Oil’s 1,250 bbl/day Group II re-refining at Peachtree, Georgia, and Bango Oil at Fallon, Nevada, with 1,400 bbl/day of Group II.

Safety-Kleen’s 2013 acquisition of Evergreen added about 1,150 bbl/day of Group II base oil re-refining to Safety-Kleen’s strength in the US market.

Safety-Kleen has 700 bbl/day of Group I base oil production at Breslau, Canada, along with 1,200 bbl/day of Group II at the same location.

The company also has 4,200 bbl/day of Group II re-refined production at East Chicago, Indiana, and 800 bbl/day of Group I also at this location.

If by 2017 re-refining capacities expected to come on-stream do so, the North American base oil re-refining capacity could slightly exceed 1m tonnes, according to some industry analysts.

Sources pointed out that base oil market prices dropped considerably in late 2013, with refined oil prices also seeing downward price movements.   

The fall in crude oil is illustrated in the following chart:

Front-Month Crude Oil Contract

   Date

20 Dec

27 Dec

3 Jan

10 Jan

(US$/bbl)

99.32

100.32

93.96

92.72

 

Base oil prices are pressured down on supply/demand fundamentals tilted to the supply factor, with a rash of heavy discounting prevailing in late November and early January.

These dynamics hit the re-refined base oil market alongside the virgin base oil market.

At the same time, used oil collection costs have not gone down.

In the re-refined base oil market, used motor oils are collected via each company’s collection capability, including logistics and storage units.

As a result of the cost gap between the cost of collecting the used motor oil and the margin compression in base oils, the attractive margins that spurred investments in re-refining have faded or disappeared.

Industry experts said that re-refining companies that can buy large quantities of the highest quality used oil at attractive prices and operate associated re-refineries at optimal efficiency while producing superior quality base oils are best suited to weather the challenging base oil market conditions of 2014.

Capping these challenging conditions and underscoring the downward price pressure on base oils, Group II producer Motiva announced on 8 January that it is reducing posted prices on all grades effective 10 January.

Motiva is moving down light and medium viscosity Group II base stocks by 25 cents/gal and reducing the heavy viscosity base oils by 30 cents/gal.

Ahead of this price reduction, Motiva’s posted price for its light grade Group II base oils was at $3.62/gal, with mid vis at $4.00/gal and the heavy stock at $4.55/gal.

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By Judith Taylor