Damage To Plants Exceeding Expectations

Market TalkWednesday, Feb 24 2021
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Gasoline prices touched fresh 18 month highs overnight, and are holding on to gains in the early going.  Diesel prices are also ticking higher, but are lagging the strength in gasoline, even as the fundamentals for diesel look stronger than gasoline near term. 

Tuesday’s session was highlighted by a heavy wave of selling in the early going that proved short-lived and gave way to gains after an hour or so. U.S. stock indices also staged a large intra-day rally after heavy morning selling, thanks in part to some calming words from the FED Chair who was testifying before the Senate banking committee. While the correlation between stocks and energy price moves daily remains fairly strong (near 80% for the S&P 500 and WTI and ULSD contracts) the timing was mismatched as energy contracts rallied early and equities later in the day, that suggests petroleum prices are still being driven primarily by refinery news this week.

While significant progress is being made in restarting shut down plants across the country, several plants are discovering that restarts will take a month or so due to damage exceeding original expectations. 

While refined product supplies in general are tight across Texas and some adjoining markets, it looks like diesel is the bigger concern for outages in the short term. We’ve already seen spot to rack price spreads for diesel rally to their widest levels in more than a year this week, and a supply outage at the terminal in Odessa, TX was reported Tuesday evening. Complicating tight supplies, diesel demand across the U.S., based on EIA calculations, has been above average for this time of year, as economic recovery and some shift in consumption patterns (think delivery trucks) combine to offset the negative impacts of COVID. 

The diesel strength is not just limited to the Gulf Coast. Group 3 ULSD basis differentials reached a three year high yesterday, even as demand in the region slumped dramatically due to the cold snap last week, and the neighboring Chicago market is seeing similar gains. With the refineries in KS and OK that were forced to shut units due to that storm all restarting this week, and the Explorer pipeline operating normally, it seems the price rally is due to barrels being diverted to other markets across the south, rather than moving north to the Midwest, which in turn forces buyers to pay up in order to find replacement barrels. 

The API reported a large draw in diesel stocks last week, even as gasoline and crude stocks saw small builds. The EIA report this morning is expected to show some wild numbers as the refinery and oil production shutdowns will be showing up in the numbers for the first time.

HollyFrontier released their 4th quarter earnings this morning, reporting a loss of $117 million for the quarter due largely to "weak demand for gasoline and diesel coupled with compressed crude differentials.” The company did highlight its balance sheet strength and “ambitious” capital and turnaround plans as demand recovers.   

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

TACenergy MarketTalk 022421

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Energy Markets Are Trying To Find A Price Floor After Gasoline And Crude Oil Staged A Healthy Bounce To Minimize The Heavy Losses

Energy markets are trying to find a price floor after gasoline and crude oil staged a healthy bounce to minimize the heavy losses we saw early in Tuesday’s session. WTI is leading the move higher early Wednesday, up nearly $.90/barrel in the early going, while RBOB prices are up just under a penny.

Diesel continues to look like the weak link in the energy chain both technically and fundamentally. Tuesday the API reported a 4.9 million barrel build in diesel stocks, while gasoline inventories were only up 365,000 barrels, and crude oil stocks declined by more than 4.4 million barrels. The DOE’s weekly report is due out at its normal time this morning and it’s likely we’ll see a reduction in oil output and PADD 3 refining runs thanks to shut ins ahead of Hurricane Beryl, but otherwise the storm appears to be a relative non-issue with only 1 notable refining hiccup, that wasn’t even as bad as a midwestern Thunderstorm.

Chicago basis values rallied Tuesday after reports that Exxon had shut down the 250mb/day Joliet refinery following severe storms that knocked out power to the area Sunday. RBOB differentials surged nearly 9 cents on the day, while diesel diffs jumped more than a nickel. With 3 large refineries in close proximity, the Chicago cash market is notoriously volatile if any of those facilities has an upset. Back in May there was a one-day spike in gasoline basis of more than 50 cents/gallon after Joliet had an operating upset so don’t be surprised if there are bigger swings this week if the facility doesn’t come back online quickly.

Moving in the opposite direction, California basis values are heading the opposite direction with the transition to August scheduling pressuring CARBOB differentials in LA and San Francisco to their biggest discounts to prompt RBOB futures in more than 18 months. Gasoline imports into PADD 5 have held well above average levels over the past 2 months, which has more than offset the loss of the P66 Rodeo refinery’s output after it completed its conversion to RD production, in another sign of how growing refining capacity in China and other Asian countries may become more influential to the US. California regulators may also pat themselves on the back that their new plans to force refineries to report their gross profit monthly, in addition to the rules requiring all bulk trades in the state be reported must be driving the lower gasoline differentials, assuming they figure out what a basis differential is.

Meanwhile, California’s Carbon Allowance values have tumbled to their lowest levels in a year after a CARB presentation last week suggested the agency would be delaying long-anticipated tightening of the Cap and Trade program until 2026.

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

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The Sell-Off In Energy Markets Continues, With Refined Products Reaching Their Lowest Levels In A Month Early In Tuesday’s Session

The sell-off in energy markets continues, with refined products reaching their lowest levels in a month early in Tuesday’s session. Reports of slowing growth in China, the world’s largest oil purchaser, is getting much of the credit for the slide in prices so far this week, although that doesn’t do much to explain why refined products are outpacing the drop in crude.

ULSD futures are leading the early move lower, trading down a nickel on the day, and marking a 19 cent drop since July 4th. There’s not much in the way of technical support for ULSD, so don’t be surprised if this sell-off continues to pick up steam.

With today’s slide, RBOB futures are down 17 cents from where they were trading on July 4th, and are just a couple of cents from testing their 200-day moving average. Should that support break, it looks like there’s a good chance to test the June lows around $2.29.

Physical markets are not offering any strength to the futures market with all 6 of the major cash markets for diesel across the US trading at a discount to ULSD futures, while only 1 gasoline market is trading at a premium to RBOB futures. That combination of weakness in futures and cash markets is going to be troubling for refiners who are seeing margins reduce during what is traditionally a strong time of year.

The EIA highlighted the energy trade between the US and Mexico in a report Monday, showing that despite so many claims of energy independence from Mexican officials, the actual amount of refined fuels and natural gas bought from the US continues to increase. That’s good news for many US refiners who have become more dependent on Mexican purchases to find a home for their output.

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