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Updated to Q2 2018
US Group I base oils experienced a rash of posted price increases in the second quarter, mainly driven by strengthening crude oil prices and rising vacuum gas oil costs. HollyFrontier raised posted prices on light and mid viscosities by 20 cents/gal and heavy grades by 15 cents/gal effective on 2 May. ExxonMobil’s posted prices increased by 15 cents/gal on light and mid grades and by 10 cents/gal on heavy grades effective 14 May.
US Group I base oil had good demand during the second quarter. A slight uptick beginning late March to early April took place with the move into the spring uptake from the huge finished lubricants sector in preparation for the late May start to the US summer driving season. Brightstock demand was healthy throughout the second quarter as this heavy grade is made primarily from Group I base stock production.
US Group II base oil supply was steady in the second quarter, but prices moved up on stronger crude oil prices and higher vacuum gas oil costs. Petro-Canada raised its Group II posted prices by 20 cents/gal on the light grades and the 200 viscosity. The mid viscosity 300 and the heavy grade 600 went up by 15 cents/gal, all effective 2 May. All other producers announced similar posted increases on various May effective dates.
Group II base oils comprise the majority of base stocks going into the passenger car motor oil (PCMO) demand segment, keeping demand for these base stocks strong in most quarters. Group II domestic demand was healthy in the second quarter as the uptick toward the US summer driving season offered a driver for the PCMO segment. Strong Group II exports remain an important factor in maintaining supply/demand balance in the US Group II market.
Group III import producer Phillips 66 increased its posted prices on all grades by 15 cents/gal effective 23 May. US Gulf coast producer Motiva raised its posted prices on all grades by 12 cents/gal effective 14 May, while Ontario, Canada producer Petro-Canada raised its Group III grades by 15 cents/gal effective 24 May. SK Lubricants, an importer, did not raise its posted prices during the second quarter. Increases were driven by higher crude oil costs.
Group III demand in the US rose during the second quarter, driven by increasing requirements for the lighter premium oils. This trend has been looming since mid-2017 as the passenger car motor oil (PCMO) sector is being driven by regulations that require the use of the lighter oils such as Group III grades and polyalphaolefins (PAOs). Stronger demand for Group III base oils is a driver for the market entry of domestic producers such as Petro-Canada and Motiva.
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