Diesel Prices Have Dropped 45 Cents From Monday’s High

Market TalkThursday, Sep 15 2022
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Diesel prices have dropped 45 cents from Monday’s high as demand concerns both domestically and globally are putting heavy downward pressure on prices, and RBOB and WTI are now joining in on the selling after resisting the pull lower Wednesday. ULSD futures are still more than 10 cents higher than their August lows, but look like they could make a run at those levels soon, with a move below $3 likely if that support breaks.

Some suppliers will be breathing easier this morning after reports that a “tentative deal” was reached to avert a nationwide railroad strike that could have created chaos in numerous commodity markets. Ethanol supplies in particular were troubling many suppliers this week as it could have left many terminals with plenty of gasoline in the tank, and yet no E10 available to sell at the rack, in addition to numerous concerns about Biodiesel and DEF supplies nationwide. Watch the price reaction in the grain, renewables and RIN markets today to see whether or not the market believes this deal will actually make it to reality.

The European Commission proposed an emergency energy market intervention plan Wednesday that includes mandatory reductions in demand for member countries, a cap on electricity prices from renewable, nuclear and coal sources, and a “temporary solidarity contribution on excess profits” for oil and gas sectors that somewhat like a Soviet-style solution to the Russian energy problem. The plan did not include a price cap on Russian energy purchases as had been previously proposed.

The IEA highlighted how Chinese lockdowns are leading a slump in global energy demand, but noted that demand is still growing, just not as fast as it was expected to this year. The monthly report also noted that EU embargos on Russian oil have not yet come into effect, and will do so just in time for the coordinated SPR releases to come to an end, leaving markets susceptible to new price spikes. The report highlights the specific concerns around distillate supplies, as Europe still does not have a solution for the 600mbday of Russian diesel it will stop importing this winter, and refinery capacity constraints severely limit their options. 

Wednesday’s DOE report showed a large build in US Commercial crude inventories, but total oil stocks including the SPR declined, proving the IEA’s point that supplies may not look so strong once the record releases come to an end in two months. US crude oil output has stagnated over the past two months as labor logistical challenges continue to limit the growth in production. The report estimated that US diesel demand dropped by 13% to its lowest level of the year last week, which certainly isn’t helping encourage any buyers to step in at these lower levels, even though most PADDs have inventories well below normal levels.

Want to understand why California gasoline prices surged by more than $1/gallon last week? Take a look at the PADD 5 gasoline stocks chart below. Also note the huge decline in Midwestern (PADD 2) gasoline stocks the past 2 weeks as regional refiners have struggled to stay online, and shows how important the RVP waivers issues after BP’s refinery went offline were to avoid a price spike like we’ve seen on the West Coast. 

Tropical storm Fiona was named overnight, and most models continue to suggest the storm will turn north by Monday and not threaten the Gulf of Mexico, making it a non-event for energy supplies. Most models keep this storm moving away from the East Coast as it moves north, but a few suggest that a landfall near the Carolinas is possible next week.

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

Market Talk Update 09.15.22

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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