Diesel Prices Are Trying To Lead The Energy Complex Higher This Morning

Market TalkThursday, Sep 29 2022
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Diesel prices are trying to lead the energy complex higher this morning, having rallied 35 cents in the past 3 days. Gasoline and oil prices seem to be unwilling participants in diesel’s attempted rally however, following stock markets back into the red after a big rally Wednesday.

Besides the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines, refinery closures from maintenance and strikes across Europe are also adding a bullish factor for distillate prices this week.  It’s worth noting that the COVID impact on refineries is still coming into play, as facilities that put off projects 2 years ago when they were struggling to survive now have no choice but to catch back up in order to keep those facilities operating. 

Speaking of delayed maintenance: Valero is reportedly delaying maintenance at its Memphis TN refinery to (presumably) have more supply to send north on its river system that supplies much of the Ohio river valley during a period of unusually tight supply caused by other refinery outages. Meanwhile, most workers at the Husky refinery in Toledo were laid off this week, in another sign that that facility won’t be coming back online anytime soon after the deadly fire last week. Note the big drop in PADD 2 refinery runs, and the low PADD 2 inventory levels to see why suppliers are continuing to scramble in that market.

Speaking of which, gasoline prices in California are now higher than they were during the summer peak, as futures rallied and basis values held at the record-setting $2.45/gallon premium to RBOB Wednesday. Take a look at the PADD 5 inventories which touched a fresh 10-year low last week.  

While gasoline supplies are extremely tight, renewable energy supplies must be building rapidly as the LCFS credits that were the big reward for producers who can bring those products to California have plunged to a fresh 8 year low below $70/credit this week. Those credits are now worth less than half of what they were at the start of the year, and will provide a disappointing return to so many who raced to ramp up production (in several cases by shutting down their crude oil refineries) over the past 3 years. 

Renewable diesel has led the surge in production, but that product is not yet tracked on a weekly basis like traditional diesel or even ethanol is, so it’s hard to say where actual inventories are. On the other hand, it’s clear that traditional diesel stocks are pretty low as they have rallied sharply this week, with prompt values trading near a 50 cent premium to futures, and creating another scary forward curve for shippers still trying to recover from the backwardation extremes seen earlier in the year. 

Hurricane Ian continues to batter Florida after making landfall as a category 4 storm yesterday.  Damage assessments around the port of Tampa should start today, and the early indications from the Ft. Lauderdale area are that those facilities escaped major damage which will aid resupply as the storm passes. The revised path takes the storm further out to sea east of Jacksonville, which “should” keep those terminals from staying out of operation for long, and there’s a chance that this huge storm may have just threaded the needle crossing the entire state without making a direct hit on any of the major fuel ports. There’s another tropical depression that could get named in the next couple of days, but the projected path keeps it far out to sea and not a risk to land.

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

Market Talk Update 09.29.2022

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkFriday, Sep 22 2023

Energy Markets Are Ticking Modestly Higher This Morning But Remain Well Off The Highs Set Early Thursday

Energy markets are ticking modestly higher this morning but remain well off the highs set early Thursday following the reports that Russia was temporarily banning most refined product exports.  

The law of government intervention and unintended consequences: Russian officials claim the export ban is an effort to promote market stability, and right on cue, its gasoline prices plummeted a not-so-stable 10% following the news. 

There’s a saying that bull markets don’t end due to bad news, they end when the market stops rallying on good news. It’s possible that if ULSD futures continue lower after failing to sustain yesterday’s rally, or this morning’s, we could be seeing the end of the most recent bull run. That said, it’s still much too soon to call the top here, particularly with a steepening forward curve leaving prices susceptible to a squeeze, and the winter-demand months still ahead of us. Short term we need to see ULSD hold above $3.30 next week to avoid breaking its weekly trend line.

The sell-off in RIN values picked up steam Thursday, with 2023 D4 and D6 values dropping to the $1.02 range before finally finding a bid later in the session and ending the day around $1.07.   

Tropical Storm Ophelia is expected to be named today, before making landfall on the North Carolina coast tomorrow. This isn’t a major storm, and there aren’t any refineries in its path, so it’s unlikely to do much to disrupt supply, but it will dump heavy rain several of the major East Coast markets so it will likely hamper demand through the weekend. The other storm system being tracked by the NHC is now given 90% odds of being named next week, but its predicted path has shifted north as it moves across the Atlantic, which suggests it is more likely to stay out to sea like Nigel did than threaten either the Gulf or East Coasts.

Exxon reported an upset at its Baytown refinery that’s been ongoing for the past 24 hours.  It’s still unclear which units are impacted by this event, and whether or not it will have meaningful impacts on output. Total’s Pt Arthur facility also reported an upset yesterday, but that event lasted less than 90 minutes. Like most upsets in the region recently, traders seem to be shrugging off the news with gulf coast basis values not moving much. 

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Sep 21 2023

The Yo-Yo Action In Diesel Continues With Each Day Alternating Between Big Gains And Big Losses So Far This Week

The yo-yo action in diesel continues with each day alternating between big gains and big losses so far this week. Today’s 11-cent rally is being blamed on reports that Russia is cutting exports of refined products effective immediately. It’s been a while since Russian sabre rattling has driven a noticeable price move in energy futures, after being a common occurrence at the start of the war. Just like tweets from our prior President however, these types of announcements seem to have a diminishing shelf-life, particularly given how the industry has adapted to the change in Russian export flows, so don’t be surprised if the early rally loses steam later today. 

The announcement also helped gasoline prices rally 5-cents off of their overnight lows, and cling to modest gains just above a penny in the early going. Before the announcement, RBOB futures were poised for a 5th straight day of losses.

IF the export ban lasts, that would be good news for US refiners that have seen their buyers in south American countries – most notably Brazil – reduce their purchases in favor of discounted barrels from Russia this year

US refinery runs dropped below year-ago levels for the first time in 6 weeks, with PADDS 1, 2 and 3 all seeing large declines at the start of a busy fall maintenance schedule.  Oil inventories continued to decline, despite the drop-in run rates and a big increase in the adjustment factor as oil exports surged back north of 5 million barrels/day. Keep in mind that as recently as 2011 the US only produced 5 million barrels of oil every day, and exports were mostly banned until 2016, so to be sending this many barrels overseas is truly a game changer for the global market.

Chicken or the egg?  Cushing OK oil stocks dropped below year-ago levels for the first time since January last week, which may be caused by the return of backwardation incenting shippers to lower inventory levels, the shift to new WTI Midland and Houston contracts as the export market expands.  Of course, the low inventory levels are also blamed for causing the backwardation in crude oil prices, and the shift to an export market may keep inventories at the NYMEX hub lower for longer as fewer shippers want to go inland with their barrels.

Refined product inventories remain near the bottom end of their seasonal ranges, with a healthy recovery in demand after last week’s holiday hangover helping keep stocks in check.  The biggest mover was a large jump in PADD 5 distillates, which was foreshadowed by the 30 cent drop in basis values the day prior.   The big story for gasoline on the week was a surge in exports to the highest level of the year, which is helping keep inventories relatively tight despite the driving season having ended 2 weeks ago.

As expected, the FED held rates yesterday, but the open market committee also included a note that they expected to raise rates one more time this year, which sparked a selloff in equity markets that trickled over into energy prices Wednesday afternoon. The correlation between energy and equities has been non-existent of late, and already this morning we’re seeing products up despite equities pointing lower, so it doesn’t look like the FOMC announcement will have a lasting impact on fuel prices this time around.

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