Another Day, Another Record Set For RIN Prices

Market TalkWednesday, Jun 9 2021
Pivotal Week For Price Action

The bulls have regained control of petroleum futures as early losses Tuesday morning turned into solid afternoon gains, and that momentum carried through the overnight session, pushing all of the big 4 contracts to multi-year highs. WTI reached 70.62, and ULSD hit $2.1467, the highest for both contracts since October 2018, while Brent reached $72.83, its highest trade since June 2019. RBOB futures finally joined the rest of the complex, setting a new 3 year high at $2.2356 this morning, a level we haven’t seen since May of 2018.

If these early gains can hold on, the charts favor more upside, that should give WTI a run at the $77 range, which would mean ULSD making a run at $2.30 and RBOB pushing $2.40 in the next several weeks. 

The API was said to report a draw in U.S. crude oil stocks of 2.1 million barrels last week, which is getting some of the credit for the rally in WTI this morning. That doesn’t help explain why products are also up however since gasoline stocks increased by 2.4 million barrels and distillates grew by 3.7 million. The EIA’s weekly report is due out at 9:30 central.

Yesterday the DOE released its monthly Short Term Energy Outlook (STEO). The forecasts show increased expectations for U.S. Gasoline demand compared to previous reports, noting that demand before and after the Colonial shutdown has surpassed expectations, but will likely stay below pre-pandemic levels until the end of next year. Diesel meanwhile continues to show demand outstripping supply, causing a sharp drawdown in inventories in the U.S., and leaving the supply chain vulnerable over the coming months. The report also noted that diesel crack spreads have reached their highest levels since December 2019, but failed to mention that renewable volume obligations (RVO) eat up roughly $10/barrel of those gross margins.

Another day, another record set for RIN prices with both D6 and D4 values moving steadily higher even as corn and soybean prices pulled back from recent highs. That increase in RINs pushed the RVO cost for each gallon of gasoline or diesel produced or imported north of 23 cents/gallon. Remember that the next time someone asks you why gasoline prices are suddenly so high.     

Around the world and across industries, we’re witnessing the challenges faced by supply chains that are built for extremely large scale and efficiency struggling to meet the rapid pace of demand change. In the refined fuels world, that recovery has been hampered by two of the largest supply shocks ever, February’s Polar Plunge that disrupted just about every refinery in PADD 3 and the Colonial Pipeline hack that took half of the East Coast’s supply offline for a week. While things have calmed down considerably over the past several weeks, the fallout from both events is still being felt. Several refineries continue to struggle to bring units back online that were damaged in the freeze, and the FMCSA extended HOS waivers again for truckers are suppliers still struggle to catch up even though Colonial has been fully operational for three weeks.  

 Click here to download a PDF of today's TACenergy Market Talk.

Market Update (01A) 6.9.21

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Market TalkFriday, Apr 12 2024

Charts Continue To Favor A Push Towards The $3 Mark For Gasoline, While Diesel Prices May Need To Be Dragged Along For The Ride

Energy prices are rallying once again with the expected Iranian attack on Israel over the weekend appearing to be the catalyst for the move. RBOB gasoline futures are leading the way once again, trading up more than a nickel on the day to reach a fresh 7 month high at $2.8280. Charts continue to favor a push towards the $3 mark for gasoline, while diesel prices may need to be dragged along for the ride.

So far it appears that Motiva Pt. Arthur is the only refinery that experienced a noteworthy upset from the storms that swept across the southern half of the country this week. Those storms also delayed the first round of the Masters, which matters more to most traders this week than the refinery upset.

Chevron’s El Segundo refinery in the LA-area reported an unplanned flaring event Thursday, but the big moves once again came from the San Francisco spot market that saw diesel prices rally sharply to 25 cent premiums to futures. The Bay Area now commands the highest prices for spot gasoline and diesel as the conversion of 1 out of the 4 remaining refineries to renewable output is not-surprisingly creating disruptions in the supply chain.

RIN values dropped back below the 50-cent mark, after the recovery rally ran out of steam last week. The EPA is facing numerous legal challenges on the RFS and other policies, and now half of the US states are challenging the agency’s new rule restricting soot emissions. That lack of clarity on what the law actually is or may be is having widespread impacts on environmental credits around the world and makes enforcement of such policies a bit of a joke. Speaking of which, the EPA did just fine a South Carolina company $2.8 million and require that it buy and retire 9 million RINs for improper reporting from 2013-2019. The cost of those RINs now is about 1/3 of what it was this time last year, so slow playing the process definitely appears to have paid off in this case.

The IEA continues to do its best to downplay global demand for petroleum, once again reducing its economic outlook in its Monthly Report even though the EIA and OPEC continue to show growth, and the IEA’s own data shows “Robust” activity in the first quarter of the year. The IEA has come under fire from US lawmakers for changing its priorities from promoting energy security, to becoming a cheerleader for energy transition at the expense of reality.

Click here to download a PDF of today's TACenergy Market Talk.

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Apr 11 2024

Diesel Prices Continue To Be The Weak Link In The Energy Chain

Energy prices are ticking modestly lower this morning, despite warnings from the US that an Iranian attack on Israeli interest is “imminent” and reports of weather induced refinery outages, as demand fears seem to be outweighing supply fears temporarily. Diesel prices continue to be the weak link in the energy chain with both the DOE and OPEC reports giving the diesel bears reason to believe lower prices are coming.

The March PPI report showed a lower inflation reading for producers than the Consumer Price Index report, leading to an immediate bounce in equity futures after the big wave of selling we saw yesterday. To put the CPI impact in perspective, a week ago Fed Fund futures were pricing in an 80% chance of an interest rate cut by the FED’s July 31 meeting, and today those odds have shrunk to 40% according to the CME’s FedWatch tool.

OPEC’s monthly oil market report held a steady outlook for economic growth and oil demand from last month’s report, noting the healthy momentum of economic activity in the US. The cartel’s outlook also highlighted significant product stock increases last month that weighed heavily on refining margins, particularly for diesel. Given the US focus on ULSD futures that are deliverable on the East Coast, which continues to have relatively tight supply for diesel, it’s easy to overlook how quickly Asian markets have gotten long on distillates unless of course you’re struggling through the slog of excess supply in numerous west coast markets these days. The OPEC report noted this in a few different ways, including a 33% decline in Chinese product exports as the region simply no longer needs its excess. The cartel’s oil output held steady during March with only small changes among the countries as they hold to their output cut agreements.

If you believe the DOE’s diesel demand estimates, there’s reason to be concerned about domestic consumption after a 2nd straight week of big declines. The current estimate below 3 million barrels/day is something we typically only see the week after Christmas when many businesses shut their doors. We know the DOE’s figures are missing about 5% of total demand due to Renewable Diesel not being included in the weekly stats, and it’s common to see a drop the week after a holiday, but to lose more than a million barrels/day of consumption in just 2 weeks will keep some refiners on edge.

Most PADDs continue to follow their seasonal trends on gasoline with 1 and 2 still in their normal draw down period, while PADD 3 is rebuilding inventories faster than normal following the transition to summer grade products. That rapid influx of inventory in PADD 3 despite robust export activity helps explain the spike in premiums to ship barrels north on Colonial over the past 2 weeks. Gasoline also saw a sizeable drop in its weekly demand estimate, but given the holiday hangover effect, and the fact that it’s in line with the past 2 years, there’s not as much to be concerned about with that figure. While most of the activity happens in PADDs 1-3, the biggest disconnect is coming in PADDs 4 and 5, with gasoline prices in some Colorado markets being sold 50 cents or more below futures, while prices in some California markets are approaching 90 cents above futures.

Severe weather sweeping across the southern US knocked several units offline at Motiva’s Pt Arthur plant (the country’s largest refinery) Wednesday, and it seems likely that Louisiana refineries will see some disruption from the storm that spawned tornadoes close to the Mississippi River refining hub. So far cash markets haven’t reacted much, but they’ll probably need more time to see what damage may have occurred.

Click here to download a PDF of today's TACenergy Market Talk, including all charts from the Weekly DOE Report.

Pivotal Week For Price Action