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Updated to Q3 2018
US Group I base oils supply remained largely balanced to demand in the third quarter of 2018. Posted price reductions hit in August, driven by lower crude oil prices and softening demand. But Group I supply was steady and a number of viscosity’s market prices were stable in spite of lower posted prices.
US Group I base oil demand was steady during the third quarter of 2018. Demand sectors in heavy duty vehicles used for agriculture was firm alongside marine applications. These sectors continue to be mainstays for the Group I base stocks as does the ongoing value-added position of brightstock base oil grades.
US Group II base oil supply lengthened during the third quarter of 2018 as production utilisation was high at most refinery base oil units. Spot export opportunities tapered significantly in the third quarter, pulling down prices and pushing more offtake into Mexico. Mexico continues to bring in significant volumes of US Group II base oils, assisting in keeping the supply factor in the US domestic market more in line with domestic demand.
Since Group II base oils comprise the majority of base stocks going into the passenger car motor oils (PCMOs), domestic demand for Group II is generally ongoing healthy. Domestic demand in the third quarter was good but spot export demand fell back in late July and did not ramp up by the quarter’s end. Contract export business was steady.
Group III base oil supply continues to be primarily imported base stocks. By the third quarter of 2018, several new importers became active in the US as well as the presence of domestic producers. PetroCanada and Motiva entered domestic US production earlier and have become active in the supply channels for US Group III. Balanced supply/demand fundamentals that held firm before the new entrants are faltering, with market prices falling on competitive activity.
Group III demand continued to ramp up in the third quarter of 2018 as OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) and other buyers seek to bring motor oils, transformer oils and other base oil applications into the evolving world of low-viscosity passenger car motor oils (PCMOs). Demand for lighter viscosity base stocks to serve for the light PCMOs now in full control of that huge end-use segment.
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