High-Sulfur Fuel Oil Prices Return to Pre-Crude Collapse Levels

by Ship & Bunker News Team
Tuesday August 25, 2020

High-sulfur fuel oil (HSFO) prices in Northwest Europe have returned to the level they were at before this year's crude collapse in March.

In Rotterdam 380 CST HSFO was trading at $270.50/mt on Monday, according to Ship & Bunker pricing, the highest level since March 6.

Crude prices started to collapse this year on March 9 after a falling-out in the OPEC+ coalition between Russia and Saudi Arabia over production levels. The move was soon followed by a dramatic fall in bunker prices.

While HSFO has rallied strongly, very low sulfur fuel oil (VLSFO) prices remain significantly lower than their levels before the OPEC+ row hammered markets.

VLSFO prices have been kept low by generally weak demand for middle distillates, while some strength has been lent to HSFO by output cuts in Russia and demand for the product from US refiners for use as a feedstock.

VLSFO was at $316/mt at Rotterdam on Monday, compared with a price of $379/mt on March 6.

This has narrowed the VLSFO-HSFO price spread, a key measure of profitability for those shipowners that invested in scrubbers. The spread at Rotterdam narrowed to just $45.50/mt on Monday, the lowest level in a month and compared with one of $298/mt at the end of 2019.