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Updated to Q2 2018
Supply of Group I base oils in Europe started out tight at the start of the quarter, with the refinery maintenance season taking in place in Europe and Russia, putting a squeeze on availability. Prices in Europe and the Baltic export markets marked some large increases as a result. Conditions did balance out towards the end of the quarter though, as refineries came back online, with values stable to soft in some cases.
Demand for Group I base oils in Europe was largely stable during the second quarter but availability of base oils was limited because of the refinery maintenance season taking place in Russia and Europe, forcing buyers to scour the market for product. Players in Europe were looking to the Baltic Sea export market to substitute European supply with Russian product but this too was in tight supply. Prices marked increases as a result.
Supply of Group II base oils in Europe was ample in the second quarter. This moderated a global energy price hike and US base oils lifts to an extent. US material continued to dominate, particularly from Chevron alongside other producers. Availability was boosted by a German distributor’s partnership in Europe with US-based Motiva from April onwards. Luberef’s new plant in Saudi Arabia and Asian offers added psychological pressure but little real impact.
European Group II base oils demand was broadly stable in the second quarter, against the backdrop of a market gearing up for the shift away from Group I and greater Group II supply expected from ExxonMobil’s upcoming new Rotterdam unit. This new commercial supply due in 2019 is seen as supporting Group II use in Europe. Suppliers were not anticipating any spikes in demand during the second quarter. Demand for heavier for scarcer 500/600N grades can be healthy, especially for some end uses.
Supply of Group III (GIII) base oils in Europe was mixed during the second quarter depending on grade and whether product was approved or unapproved. Unapproved product was in fairly healthy supply with material coming from Russia and Abu Dhabi, but approved product tended to be tighter amid turnarounds at refineries in Asia. 6cSt base oil was more limited in supply than 4cSt as demand for this tends to be higher and greater supply of 4cSt is available from Russia.
Demand for Group III base oils was mixed, with healthier demand noted for 6cSt product than 4cSt product. This could potentially have been because there was tighter availability of 6cSt product versus 4cSt product, with ample availability of the latter grade entering Europe from Russia. As a result, 6cSt product started to trade at a premium over 4cSt because of the different supply and demand fundamentals being seen for both grades.
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