US base oils imports rebounded in December on a sharp recovery in shipments of Group III base oils from Mideast Gulf and South Korea.
Imports from Singapore also remained higher than usual for a second month.
The rise in shipments boosted availability of premium-grade base oils at a time of year when US demand typically slows.
The pick-up in shipments to the US showed signs of extending into January and February.
Producers cut their US Group III posted prices in January for the first time in several years in response to softer supply-demand fundamentals.
The premium of Group III base oils to crude and diesel remained unusually high even after the price-adjustment.
Total US base oils imports of 1.45mn bl (204,370t) in December rebounded from a five-month low of 1.10mn bl the previous month, government data showed.
Supplies fell in November because of a slump in imports of Group III base oils to a twenty-month low of 819,990bl.
Shipments of the premium-grade base oils recovered to a three-month high of 1.25mn bl in December.
The volume rose on a rebound in imports from the Mideast Gulf to a five-month high of almost 600,000bl.
The slowdown in supplies from the Mideast Gulf in November mirrored a similar drop in shipments to Europe and coincided with some plant maintenance in the region in the fourth quarter of the year.
A recovery in shipments from South Korea in December added to the pick-up in supplies.
The flow of supplies from the Mideast Gulf to the US showed signs of rising even more in early 2023 amid a pick-up in shipments from Bahrain.
US imports from the island-sate had been unusually low in the fourth quarter of last year.
The large volume of imports in December added to a surge in shipments to the US in 2022 – mostly because of the rise in supplies of Group III base oils.
Imports got a further boost from the addition of arbitrage shipments from Asia-Pacific markets like Taiwan.
Total imports of 16.27mn bl in 2022 rose by 10pc from 14.85mn bl in 2021 to the highest in at least eight years.
US imports rose in 2022 even with a drop in supplies from the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia and Russia.