Diesel Prices Are Finally Bouncing After 3 Days Of Heavy Selling Pushed Prices Down By 26 Cents/Gallon

Market TalkFriday, Nov 10 2023
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Gasoline prices are attempting to rally for a 2nd day after touching their lowest levels of the year on Wednesday. We’ll need to see prices rally another couple of cents to avoid a 3rd consecutive weekly loss however, and another 8 cents to break the downward trend on the weekly charts. Seasonal factors are working against gasoline bulls this time of year with just 2 weeks left before the Thanksgiving hangover kicks off the winter demand doldrums.

Diesel prices are finally bouncing after 3 days of heavy selling pushed prices down by 26 cents/gallon. December ULSD ticked below $2.70 a couple of times in the past 24 hours, but has since rallied to $2.75, adding a new short-term layer of chart support. We’ll need to see prices rally back above the $2.90 range to break the bearish trend lines on the weekly chart and prove that this recovery rally is more than a dead-cat bounce.

Q3 earnings reports are wrapping up this week, with the continued theme of strong results for traditional refiners, while renewable producers (and EV manufacturers) are all seeing more headwinds.

Suncor highlighted improvements in its operational and safety efforts in its Q3 earnings report that allowed its refineries to operate above 100% of nameplate capacity for the quarter after a brutal start to the year. The company did not mention anything about the change to reformulated gasoline in the Denver market but did note that it’s rapidly expanding its fleet of autonomous trucks in its oil-sands operations, which is one way to handle the industry’s driver shortage. 

Today, we have 31 trucks operating at base plant autonomously. By second quarter 2024, it will be 45, and by year end ‘24, it will be 91. If our data is correct, this will be the largest single mine fleet of autonomous ultra-class trucks globally.

Citgo also reported strong operating results, with 95% refinery utilization during Q3 and solid margins as we saw from all of the other US refiners. The company oddly highlighted the Tampa fuel contamination issue under its “operational excellence” section of the report, without mentioning the costs associated with taking the terminal out of commission for months or running out dozens of customers in the area just before a category 4 hurricane made landfall. 

Darling ingredients (Valero’s partner in the Diamond Green RD joint venture) highlighted the challenges posed by the declines in RIN and LCFS values during the quarter with a sharp drop in RD margins.   Their note also suggested that new RD production is not coming online as quickly as anticipated this year. 

Clean Energy Fuel’s Q3 earnings report further highlighted the plight of renewables producers due to the fall in RIN values, with a net loss of $25 million this quarter vs an $8 million loss last year, despite positive traction with their renewable natural gas engine rollout.

And finally, a bit of Friday humor courtesy of the financial times, who knows how to properly distract readers when their website isn’t functioning correctly.

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

Market Talk Update 11.10.2023

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Market TalkFriday, Dec 1 2023

“Buy The Rumor, Sell The News” Seems To Be The Trading Pattern Of The Week

“Buy the Rumor, Sell the News” seems to be the trading pattern of the week as oil and refined products dropped sharply Thursday after OPEC & Friends announced another round of output cuts for the first quarter of next year. 

Part of the reason for the decline following that report is that it appears that the cartel wasn’t able to reach an official agreement on the plan for next year, prompting those that could volunteer their own production cuts without forcing restrictions on others. In addition, OPEC members not named Saudi Arabia are notorious for exceeding official quotas when they are able to, and Russia appears to be (surprise) playing games by announcing a cut that is made up of both crude oil and refined products, which are already restricted and thus allow an incremental increase of exports. 

Diesel futures are leading the way lower this morning, following a 13-cent drop from their morning highs Thursday, and came within 3-cents of a new 4-month low overnight. The prompt contract did leave a gap on the chart due to the backwardation between December and January contracts, which cut out another nickel from up front values.

Gasoline futures meanwhile are down 15-cents from yesterday’s pre-OPEC highs and are just 7-cents away from reaching a new 1-year low.  

Cash markets across most of the country are looking soft as they often do this time of year, with double digit discounts to futures becoming the rule across the Gulf Coast and Mid Continent. The West Coast is mixed with diesel prices seeing big discounts in San Francisco, despite multiple refinery upsets this week, while LA clings to small premiums. 

Ethanol prices continue to hold near multi-year lows this week as controversy over the fuel swirls. Corn growing states filed a motion this week trying to compel the courts to force the EPA to waive pollution laws to allow E15 blends. Meanwhile, the desire to grow even more corn to produce Jet Fuel is being hotly debated as the environmental impacts depend on which side of the food to fuel lobby you talk to.

The chaotic canal congestion in Panama is getting worse as authorities are continuing to reduce the daily number of ships transiting due to low water levels. Those delays are hitting many industries, energy included, and are now spilling over to one of the world’s other key shipping bottlenecks.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Nov 30 2023

No Official Word From OPEC Yet On Their Output Agreement For Next Year

Energy prices are pushing higher to start Thursday’s session after a big bounce Wednesday helped the complex maintain its upward momentum for the week.   

There’s no official word from OPEC yet on their output agreement for next year, but the rumor-mill is in high gear as always leading up to the official announcement, if one is actually made at all. A Reuters article this morning suggests that “sources” believe Saudi Arabia will continue leading the cartel with a voluntary output cut of around 1-million BPD to begin the year and given the recent drop in prices that seems like a logical move. 

We saw heavy selling in the immediate wake of the DOE’s weekly report Wednesday, only to see prices reverse course sharply later in the day. ULSD was down more than 9-cents for a few minutes following the report but bounced more than 7-cents in the afternoon and is leading the push higher this morning so far.

It’s common to see demand drop sharply following a holiday, particularly for diesel as many commercial users simply shut down their operations for several days, but last week’s drop in implied diesel demand was one of the largest on record for the DOE’s estimates. That drop in demand, along with higher refinery runs, helped push diesel inventories higher in all markets, and the weekly days of supply estimate jumped from below the 5-year seasonal range around 25 days of supply to above the high end of the range at 37 days of supply based on last week’s estimated usage although it’s all but guaranteed we’ll see a correction higher in demand next week.

Gasoline demand also slumped, dropping to the low end of the seasonal range, and below year-ago levels for the first time in 5-weeks. You’d never guess that based on the bounce in gasoline prices that followed the DOE’s report however, with traders appearing to bet that the demand slump in a seasonal anomaly and tighter than average inventories may drive a counter-seasonal price rally.

Refinery runs increased across the country as plants returned to service following the busiest fall maintenance season in at least 4-years. While total refinery run rates are still below last year’s levels, they’re now above the 5-year average with more room to increase as no major upsets have been reported to keep a large amount of throughput offline.

The exception to the refinery run ramp up comes from PADD 4 which was the only region to see a decline last week after Suncor apparently had another inopportune upset at its beleaguered facility outside Denver. 

The 2023 Atlantic Hurricane season officially ends today, and it will go down as the 4th most active season on record, even though it certainly didn’t feel too severe given that the US dodged most of the storms.  

Today is also the expiration day for December 2023 ULSD and RBOB futures so look to the January contracts (RBF and HOF) for price direction if your market hasn’t already rolled.

More refineries ready to change hands next year?  With Citgo scheduled to be auctioned off, Irving Oil undergoing a strategic evaluation, and multiple new refineries possibly coming online, 2024 was already looking to be a turbulent year for refinery owners. Phillips 66 was indicating that it may sell off some of its refinery assets, but a new activist investor may upend those plans, along with the company’s directors.

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