Bleeding Has Stopped For Energy Prices

Market TalkThursday, Jun 6 2019
Hurricane Expected To Make Landfall

The bleeding has stopped for energy prices, temporarily at least, after another DOE-inspired tidal wave of selling knocked prices to fresh multi-month lows Wednesday. If the tentative early gains can hold, it would snap a 6-day losing streak for gasoline futures that have wiped out more than 25 cents/gallon. (As I was about to hit send, the 2 cent gains from 30 minutes ago have turned into losses, which suggests it’s too soon to declare an end to the meltdown.)

Stock markets seem to be happy that negotiations are underway between US & Mexican representatives in an effort to avoid another tariff battle. Although energy and equity prices have detached from one another recently, those discussions could have direct impacts on US refiners who are weighing in to try and avoid paying more for imported crude, and for exported products should a retaliatory tax battle break out.

US Oil production reached a new all-time high at 12.4 million barrels/day last week, that’s 1.5 million barrels/day more than 1 year ago, and more than 3 million barrels/day more than 2 years ago.

Diesel demand remains dismal with last week’s estimate from the DOE marking the lowest level for May in the past 7 years.

Gasoline stocks continued to build, led by the largest weekly increase in PADD 5 (West Coast) inventories in more than 20 years. The past 3 weeks have seen PADD 5 gas stocks move from below their 5 year seasonal range to the top end of it as record imports flooded the market to take advantage of the high prices created in the wake of numerous unplanned refinery issues. Based on the industry’s uncanny knack for over-healing its wounds, it would not be surprising to continue to see builds in the coming weeks even though supplies are now ample.

You know a market is bearish when…one of the country’s largest refineries reports operational issues due to storms and prices barely flinch.

The heavy rains sweeping across the country continues to threaten many states already fighting flood waters. Reports Wednesday indicated that Exxon was facing multiple unit shutdowns at its Baytown TX plant, one of the country’s largest refineries. Gulf coast gasoline and basis values moved modestly higher on the day, and it did not seem to move the needle in futures markets, but it’s another reminder that we’re starting off the hurricane season with refineries in an unusually vulnerable spot due to the spring rains.

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Market TalkFriday, Jul 19 2024

Summertime-Friday-Apathy Trade Influencing Energy Markets

Energy markets are treading water to start the day as the Summertime-Friday-Apathy trade seems to be influencing markets around the world in the early going. RBOB futures are trying for a 3rd straight day of gains to wipe out the losses we saw to start the week, while ULSD futures continue to look like the weak link, trading lower for a 2nd day and down nearly 3 cents for the week.

Bad to worse: Exxon’s Joliet refinery remains offline with reports that repairs may take through the end of the month. On top of that long delay in restoring power to the facility, ENT reported this morning that the facility has leaked hydrogen fluoride acid gas, which is a dangerous and controversial chemical used in alkylation units. Chicago basis values continue to rally because of the extended downtime, with RBOB differentials approaching a 50-cent premium to futures, which sets wholesale prices just below the $3 mark, while ULSD has gone from the weakest in the country a month ago to the strongest today. In a sign of how soft the diesel market is over most of the US, however, the premium commanded in a distressed market is still only 2 cents above prompt futures.

The 135mb Calcasieu Refinery near Lake Charles LA has been taken offline this morning after a nearby power substation went out, and early reports suggest repairs will take about a week. There is no word yet if that power substation issue has any impacts on the nearby Citgo Lake Charles or P66 Westlake refineries.

Two tanker ships collided and caught fire off the coast of Singapore this morning. One ship was a VLCC which is the largest tanker in the world capable of carrying around 2 million barrels. The other was a smaller ship carrying “only” 300,000 barrels (roughly 12 million gallons) of naphtha. The area is known for vessels in the “dark fleet” swapping products offshore to avoid sanctions, so a collision isn’t too surprising as the vessels regularly come alongside one another, and this shouldn’t disrupt other ships from transiting the area.

That’s (not) a surprise: European auditors have determined the bloc’s green hydrogen goals are unattainable despite billions of dollars of investment, and are based on “political will” rather than analysis. Also (not) surprising, the ambitious plans to build a “next-gen” hydrogen-powered refinery near Tulsa have been delayed.

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Market TalkThursday, Jul 18 2024

Refined Products Stanch Bleeding Despite Inventory Builds And Demand Slump

Refined products are trading slightly lower to start Thursday after they stopped the bleeding in Wednesday’s session, bouncing more than 2 cents on the day for both RBOB and ULSD, despite healthy inventory builds reported by the DOE along with a large slump in gasoline demand.

Refinery runs are still above average across the board but were pulled in PADD 3 due to the short-term impacts of Beryl. The Gulf Coast region is still outpacing the previous two years and sitting at the top end of its 5-year range as refiners in the region play an interesting game of chicken with margins, betting that someone else’s facility will end up being forced to cut rates before theirs.

Speaking of which, Exxon Joliet was reportedly still offline for a 3rd straight day following weekend thunderstorms that disrupted power to the area. Chicago RBOB basis jumped by another dime during Wednesday’s session as a result of that downtime. Still, that move is fairly pedestrian (so far) in comparison to some of the wild swings we’ve come to expect from the Windy City. IIR via Reuters reports that the facility will be offline for a week.

LA CARBOB differentials are moving in the opposite direction meanwhile as some unlucky seller(s) appear to be stuck long and wrong as gasoline stocks in PADD 5 reach their highest level since February, and held above the 5-year seasonal range for a 4th consecutive week. The 30-cent discount to August RBOB marks the biggest discount to futures since 2022.

The EIA Wednesday also highlighted its forecast for rapid growth in “Other” biofuels production like SAF and Renewable Naptha and Propane, as those producers capable of making SAF instead of RD can add an additional $.75/gallon of federal credits when the Clean Fuels Producer’s Credit takes hold next year. The agency doesn’t break out the products between the various “Other” renewable fuels, but the total projected output of 50 mb/day would amount to roughly 2% of total Jet Fuel production if it was all turned to SAF, which of course it won’t as the other products come along for the ride similar to traditional refining processes.

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Pivotal Week For Price Action