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Updated to Q3 2018
Supply of Group I base oils in Europe improved throughout the second quarter, although availability of brightstock remained tight. The summer period saw a slow-down in demand, with market supply generally improving as a result. However, a buy tender from Egypt, which has been occurring for most of the year, maintained pressure on brightstock supplies, with its prices increasing and remaining at a premium to those of SN150 and SN500.
Demand for Group I base oils was quieter during the summer holiday period. Most buy interest continues to be seen for brightstock due to its comparatively tighter availability versus SN150 and SN500. Lower demand for SN150 and SN500 saw supply of these products lengthen, particularly in the case of SN500. The European export market was hit by competition for Nigerian demand, with the country more interested in product from the US due to competitive pricing there.
The European Group II market has generally been healthy in terms of supply over the second quarter, with a steady flow of material entering Europe from the US. At least four North American suppliers were offering Group II product in Europe during July, with talk of volumes on offer from Asia as well. However, prices in Europe did move up in early August amid talk of turnarounds either being underway or on the horizon.
Demand in the European Group II market was steady but at good levels during the second quarter, with suppliers noting numerous requests for material in July. The market had begun to gear up for the prospect of domestic Group II production in Europe during 2019, with ExxonMobil’s upcoming new Rotterdam unit set for completion during quarter four of this year. Players in some cases were therefore preparing to shift from Group I product to Group II.
Supply of Group III base oils was mixed during the second quarter depending on whether the product was approved or non-approved. Ample supply of non-approved product was noted within Europe and entering Europe from Russia and Abu Dhabi. Supply of approved product was tighter because of bouts of refinery maintenance in Asia during quarter two. Prices for 6cSt had traded at a premium to 4cSt at some points during quarter two, with the former tending to be tighter in supply.
Demand for Group III base oils was fairly steady during the quarter, with growing interest in Group III+ oils also noted. The seasonally slower summer holiday period had potentially dented demand but buying interest was said to have been higher in September than in August according to some parties. It is thought that this buying interest had tailed off slightly as the market progressed further through the month though, with more subdued conditions noted.
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