Charts Continue To Suggest Diesel Is In A Precarious Position

Market TalkFriday, Feb 24 2023
Pivotal Week For Price Action

It’s a mixed bag for energy markets to start Friday’s trading with diesel prices up 2 cents, gasoline down 2 cents and crude oil flat in the early going.

Diesel prices had their lowest settlement Thursday since prior to the war breaking out a year ago, an event that was the major factor in ULSD futures breaking just about every record on the books. The March ULSD contract also came within a penny of hitting its lowest outright value of the past 13 months before once again finding enough of a bid to avoid a technical collapse. Charts continue to suggest diesel is in a precarious position, with a major slide possible if the $2.66 range fails to hold support. If you’re a believer in the trading adage that “There’s no such thing as a triple bottom” on the charts, then a slide into the $2.50s should feel inevitable as we’ve seen lows near $2.66 three times in the past 3 weeks.

Crude oil inventories saw another large build, swelling by more than 7.6 million barrels, despite a surge in export activity that sent more than 32 million barrels of crude out of the country last week. The combined build in crude oil stocks reported over the past two weeks totals nearly 24 million barrels, even though those same reports show strong export growth and stagnant imports. Refinery runs and crude production can’t explain the big inventory gains since both were flat last week, leaving many to wonder how a government report could possibly have such confusing and misleading data. 

Don’t worry, the EIA makes it perfectly clear by reporting a 2 million barrel/day adjustment to US Crude oil supplies in each of the past 2 weeks. 2 million barrels/day X 14 days = 28 million barrels of oil that the agency has in its compiled reports and is saying has no idea how it got there.  

If you’re enjoying the confusing government data theme today, check out the PCE report that shows inflation continues to run hot and has stock markets pulling back yet again since it reinforces the idea that the FED won’t be letting up its tightening any time soon.

Los Angeles diesel basis values dropped 11 cents on Thursday, even though PADD 5 diesel inventories remain well below the 5-year seasonal range and multiple refinery issues continue to limit output in the region. Soft demand was likely the culprit in that large basis slide as 6” of rain and the first blizzard warning in parts of California in more than a decade are certainly not encouraging trucks to be on the road.

Total US Diesel inventories climbed back into their 5-year seasonal range for the first time in a year and moved above prior year levels for the first time since 2021. Diesel demand remains at very low levels for this time of the year, with minimal heating demand getting much of the blame for the worst start to a year for diesel consumption in a decade.

The US exported nearly 6 million barrels of refined products last week, but most of it wasn’t gasoline and diesel. In fact, the charts below show propane and propylene exports were on part with gasoline and diesel, demonstrating the growing importance of HGLs in the global energy mix.

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

Market Talk Update 02.24.2023

News & Views

View All
Market Talk Updates - Social Header
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.

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

Market Talk Updates - Social Header
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.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action