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Updated to Q1 2018
Domestic European supply of Group I base oils has remained balanced-to-tight depending on the grade, with brightstock generally regarded as the grade most difficult to come by. In the European export market, fewer volumes have been made available for spot business, with the supply situation remaining tight as a result. Again, supply of brightstock seems to be tighter in comparison to SN150 and SN500, with tighter availability of this grade attributed to capacity closures which have taken place in recent years. Although domestic prices have remained stable amid the tendency towards more balanced conditions, export prices did see a jump earlier in the quarter as a result of the tight market availability.
Demand for Group I base oils in Europe was fairly steady this quarter, with most interest reserved for heavier grades such as brightstock, which has become more and more difficult to source amid capacity closures in the market in recent years. Players in the European export market said that it is becoming more difficult for the market to cater to spikes in demand following shrinking Group I market capacity.
European Group II supply was stable or slightly improved compared to the end of 2017, when hurricane-hit US producers were viewed as offering fewer volumes. Buyers were able to source volumes without issue. US supply continued to dominate. Small samples of ExxonMobil Group II material ahead of its Rotterdam unit opening in 2019 were believed to be offered; the company has not confirmed this.
European Group II consumption was seen as broadly steady in the second quarter of 2018.
European Group III base oils supply was broadly in balance, verging on tightness for material with original equipment manufacturer (OEM) approvals. Non-approved supply was well-supported by newer additional material from Abu Dhabi and Russian suppliers. Fewer ‘approved’ and semi-approved spot volumes were free for buyers. This was amid Korean and Malaysian turnarounds later in the quarter. Slightly tighter approved market was also seen as affected by the late 2017 Neste-Bapco deal believed to cut the amount of base oils from the Bahrain plant which the Finnish firm can market under its approvals.
European demand was very healthy for Group III during Q1 2018, according to suppliers. A more pragmatic note was struck in late Q1 within the UK with reference by a source to unexciting finished lubricants demand in Q1, which would imply stable or weak base oils consumption, although it was unclear how widespread this trend was.
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