Supply-side disruptions push CPC prices higher for aluminum buyers
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Calcined petcoke prices gained support in Europe and the Americas in April from supply-side disruptions due to refinery production cuts, but Chinese CPC export prices continued to fall this month.
Several refiners have put aluminum companies on allocations for their CPC supplies, and green coke supply is running tighter as oil refineries reduce run rates due to falling consumption of gasoline and jet fuel amid the coronavirus pandemic. Smelter buyers agreed that refiners and calciners floated higher offers for spot and Q2 deals, but prices mostly consolidated up from the lows, rather than seeing any increase in the high end of last month's ranges.
The Platts monthly US CPC assessment rose slightly to $230-$245/mt FOB US Gulf ports from $225-$245 in March, reflecting transactable value for CPC with max 3% sulfur, 300-400 ppm vanadium and typical metals . Prices on Q1 contracts ranged from $220-$250 FOB Gulf.
A calciner reported offering on three spot cargoes for Europe, South America and India in the mid-$230s FOB US Gulf , but the cargoes were not yet booked. He did not detail any Q2 price talks but thought the offer level would be similar, and that the $225 level from Q1 bookings was probably no longer valid.
An aluminum company booked a Q2 deal at $245 FOB US Gulf , for a typical grade, compared with its Q1 pricing of around $240-$245.
Another calciner had booked some Q2 deals in the $240s.
A smelter buyer who booked at the low end of Q1 pricing was offered $235, and higher for Q2, which he said might be a "fair increase" given his Q1 deal.
Another buyer had a Q2 offer of $245 FOB Gulf but was bidding closer to $240, which was up from his Q1 level just under $230.
"They [suppliers] were trying to put out an increase, which of course was shot down immediately," a fourth buyer said. He noted it was "early days" in Q2 negotiations and he saw no reason for a price increase in the US market given it was already higher than Europe.
"It's not a market where the industry can pay up for the coke," he said.
Another aluminum company was also resisting price increases, with the buyer saying cost hikes in low-sulfur green coke might justify a $5-$10 rise but not more than that considering prices on the rest of the blend were stable.
European prices seen up $10-$20
Suppliers saw the CPC fundamentals supporting a small price increase, which a refiner said might be $10-$20 in Europe.
Another refiner, however, acknowledged that smelter buying interest was muted, with no Q2 settlements so far. As to additional spot inquiries, "A couple people have asked, but not ‘asked, asked,' hard, so inquiring but not begging," he said.
A third refiner saw buyers more ready to settle Q2 contract pricing early, but saw most prices in the low to mid $240s delivered Rotterdam basis, or at rollovers from the Q1 range of $230-$250. He had done one deal at just above $250.
Another refiner source, however, saw no extra CPC buying interest. He thought an increase to $240-$245 delivered Rotterdam in Q2 might be a stretch from the Q1 range of $225-$235, but said there would be upside pressure on calciners from cost increases on green coke.
Chinese CPC prices approach low-$200s again
Chinese CPC prices fell rapidly this month, after easing to the mid-$250s FOB last month. Some smelters were able to quickly source Chinese CPC to make up for any shortfalls.
A buyer had an unsolicited offer from early in the month at just below $230 FOB China for a max 3% S grade and was targeting in the $220s for a summer cargo. Another buyer paid $245 FOB late in the month for a less-than 3% S cargo for June. An Indian buyer was heard bidding in the $190s for a Q2 cargo and to have booked it at around $220.
Results were also pending on a buyer's E-auction for Chinese CPC last week where pre-tender indicator prices ranged from $218-$228 FOB.
Some buy-side sources thought Chinese prices were approaching $200-$210 FOB, with higher-sulfur , higher metals grades down around $170 and low-sulfur CPC available at competitive prices on a delivered Europe basis.
Green coke prices surge
Low-sulfur GPC prices surged in line with refinery cuts, with US calciners reporting prices of $150/wmt CFR for South American GPC, and Q2 deals for US 2%-sulfur GPC heard at around $125/dmt FOB, up from around $90-100 in February/March.
YPF and Petrobras had a lull in GPC offers until June, but relief may come soon, with YPF holding its first GPC auction this year, with bids due the first week of May.