Cautious Push Higher Continues Today

Market TalkFriday, Nov 20 2020
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The slow and cautious push higher continues today as diesel prices attempt to lead a push through the top end of the trading range that’s held the energy complex since June. ULSD futures are trading higher for a fifth straight day after reaching their highest settlement since July, but have still not yet been able to crack the $1.30 mark. Oil and gasoline prices have also been moving higher, but the moves over this entire week are less than what we would have expected in a single day last spring, and indicate the cautious nature of any optimism this year.

The correlation between daily moves in energy and equity prices has strengthened in the past few weeks as the markets have become fixated on the vaccine race versus the new shutdown orders amidst record COVID case counts. Ultimately, whether or not stocks can continue their recent march higher may determine if we see a breakout to the upside in energy futures, or if prices will fall back into their range yet again.

The move higher in ULSD over the past couple of weeks has helped diesel margins for refiners, but that’s largely been offset by weakness in gasoline, keeping the rough estimates of refinery profitability near breakeven levels. The forward curve looks better for the facilities that can weather this storm, although numerous reports suggest we’re likely to see more refinery closures in Europe and/or the U.S. before this is over. Asian refiners meanwhile seem to be doing well which creates a new shift in global logistics for crude and refined products that is expected to help tanker rates and ship operators.

A new bill known as the “Streamlining Advanced Biofuels Registrations Act” was proposed this week, in an attempt to force the EPA to consider applications for cellulosic biomass fuel producers. While this bill may have minimal if any impact on supplies near-term, it is a good reminder of why Georgia is looking like the most important state for fuel producers in 2021 as control of the Senate hangs in the balance. D4 RINs continue to hold near three-year highs around 90 cents/RIN, while D6 ethanol RINs have retreated in the past week, along with ethanol prices. 

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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