Feature: Tight naphtha supply boosts Brazil gasoline prices

 In In the News

New York —
High naphtha prices because of tight global supply have trickled into the Brazil gasoline market in recent weeks, though the country’s demand has remained strong.

Not registered?

Receive daily email alerts, subscriber notes & personalize your experience.

Register Now

Platts’ Brazil import parity price for gasoline blendstock at the port of Santos was $73.82/barrel Wednesday, compared to $63.04/b the same day last year. An import parity price reflects value at a specific location on the day of publication. Brazil requires 27% ethanol in finished gasoline, which means that pre-ethanol blendstock is much lower in octane value than in most other countries, making it close in specification to naphtha.

Global tightness in the naphtha market, largely fueled by Asia’s appetite for the petrochemical feedstock amid a continued supply disruption in the Arab Gulf, has pushed naphtha prices higher worldwide.

Following a September attack on Aramco’s Abqaiq crude processing facility, Asia has attracted barrels from Europe and North America to satisfy the appetite of end-users, supporting the multi-use fuel on both continents and taking product away from Brazil, a net naphtha importer.

In Asia, high demand for light naphtha has put physical premiums at multi-year highs — signaling that movement from both Europe and the US were expected to continue. Cash differentials for spot paraffinic naphtha parcels in Asia rose to a six-year high December 13, registering a premium of $42.50/mt to benchmark Mean of Platts Japan naphtha physical assessments. The differential was last assessed higher on February 18, 2013, when it hit a premium of $43.50/mt. On Thursday, open-spec naphtha flipped to an unusual premium over heavy full-range naphtha in Asia.

“The margins for naphtha are poor in Europe, so that’s having an impact for supplying Asia,” a USGC market source said. “If Brazil spec is mostly naphtha, then I see why their prices have increased. It comes down to who pays more, Asia or Brazil.”

On the US Gulf Coast, light straight-run naphtha barges rose this week to their highest 10-day average in nearly seven months. LSR naphtha barges averaged 132.43 cents/gal in the last 10 trading days, the highest period since May 13-24.

Those strong global naphtha prices — and thus more expensive imports into Brazil — have not seemed to slow demand from Brazilian consumers, despite their fuel optionality. Finished gasoline competes in Brazil with E100 (hydrous ethanol), as most vehicles are flex-fuel.

Finished gasoline demand from September-October was at 40.32 million barrels, or up 2.96 million barrels from the same time last year, according to the most recent data from the country’s national petroleum and biofuel agency, ANP. Brazil naphtha imports rose with that stronger demand, climbing 827,387 barrels from September-October compared with 2018, ANP data showed.


Recently, liquidity in US exports of clean petroleum products to Brazil has bolstered freight for tankers loading on the Gulf Coast and discharging in the East Coast of South America.

“Freight is really strong,” a USGC market source said.

Platts fixture logs showed seven Long Range 1 tankers booked for spot voyages to Brazil since November 1, while MRs have seen more than 20 spot fixtures with options for discharge in Brazil since November 1. Comparatively, October saw just one LR1 booked and just under ten MRs for a USGC-Brazil run, according to Platts fixture data.

The majority of Brazil’s refined products imports from the USGC are diesel and jet fuel. Those two products made up 61% of total US exports to Brazil in September, according to the latest US Energy Information Administration data. Since most refined products use the same ships, a gasoline importer would have to compete with distillate fuel cargoes for the voyage.

Freight for the MR USGC-Brazil run has been on an upward trend in the fourth quarter, with mid-December freight reaching the highest levels of 2019. The 38,000 USGC-Brazil route was assessed Wednesday at w200, while the 60,000 mt USGC-Brazil route was assessed at w155.

The average rate for the MR run in the first half of December stands around w198, a nearly 7% increase over November’s monthly average of around w185. For the LR1 USGC-Brazil route, the first half of December averages around w169, a more than 30% increase from November’s average of about w129.

Platts Oilgram News brings fast-breaking global petroleum and natural gas news every day covering supply and demand trends, corporate news, government actions, exploration, technology, and much more. Click on the link below and we will set you up with a free trial.

Free Trial