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.

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Market Talk Update 09.15.22

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkFriday, Jun 9 2023

Refined Products Bounce Back And Forth Across The Break-Even Line To Start Friday’s Trading

The choppy action continues for energy markets with refined products bouncing back and forth across the break-even line to start Friday’s trading after some big swings Thursday.

RBOB futures led the rollercoaster ride Thursday, trading up 4 cents in the early morning hours, only to see those gains turn into 10 cent losses mid-morning, and then erasing most of those losses in the early afternoon following an ENT report of unplanned maintenance at the largest refinery on the East Coast.  

The selling portion of the ride was blamed on a combination of an increase in jobless claims, and the disruptive impacts of the Canadian wildfires on the major population centers along the East Coast. While air traffic has been disrupted, so far there are not any reports of delays in ship traffic around the New York Harbor, and the strong basis and time spreads we’ve seen in NY have been easing this week, so it appears that this event is more concerning to the demand side of the equation than supply. 

From a technical perspective, it’s not surprising to see this type of back-and-forth action as most petroleum contracts look to be stuck in neutral territory on the charts, which encourages trading programs to sell as prices get towards the top end of a range, and buy when it gets to the low end. 

The Atlantic Hurricane season is off to a quiet start with no tropical development expected over the next week, but NOAA did issue an El Nino advisory Thursday that suggests the warm-water pattern in the Pacific could reach “supersized” levels and create all sorts of disruptive events. Perhaps most notable in the report is that forecasters don’t believe this year’s El Nino will have the same dampening impact on Atlantic hurricanes due to record warm temperatures in the water. Here’s a brief recap in case you missed the most memorable El Nino from 25 years ago. 

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Jun 8 2023

Gasoline Futures Rally Despite Inventory Builds, Increased Throughput

Gasoline futures led another strong rally in the energy complex Wednesday and continued marching higher overnight before pulling back to near break-even levels around 7:45am central.

The RBOB contract has now wiped out the post-Memorial Day selloff, and erased the losses from the contract roll to July, setting up another test of the May highs at $2.73. If that resistance breaks, there’s a good chance we see another run at the $2.90 level, but if it holds we are probably still stuck in a sideways pattern as we move through the summer months.  West Coast gasoline prices meanwhile have reached a 3-month high as surging basis values compound the move in futures. 

The rally came despite healthy inventory builds for refined products and strong refinery runs across all 5 PADDs reported last week, with traders (or their algorithms) appearing to focus instead on healthy demand estimates in the DOE’s weekly status report. Gasoline also saw healthy exports last week, while diesel shipments overseas continued their decline which has helped keep downward pressure on diesel prices, which is essentially the polar opposite of what we were experiencing a year ago.

Lies, damned Lies and statistics:  PADD 3 refinery utilization hit 98.8% of the official capacity figure last week, which would mark a 5 year high, except the numbers are wrong. The DOE still isn’t including recent capacity additions of almost 300mb/day in those stats, so the actual figure is about 3% lower. Don’t worry though, the lack of accurate data probably isn’t intentional. The DOE recently announced it was suspending data collection for some of its monthly reports as the agency is still struggling to overcome the IT Systems failure they experienced a year ago. Add this to the realization that the official crude production and petroleum demand figures have been incorrect due to a lack of clarity surrounding condensate production that comes along with oil output.   

Speaking of which, the official US Oil output figure surged to the highest levels since the COVID lockdowns began more than 3 years ago last week. No word from the EIA if this means actual production increased, or if they’ve just changed the way they’re reporting the molecules coming out of the ground.

Irving Oil released a statement highlighting a strategic review of the company, that could include selling the business that’s been held by the Irving family for nearly 100 years. The Irving Refinery in New Brunswick is Canada’s largest at 300mb/day and is the largest importer of fuels into the northeastern US. Critics are arguing that the review is an attempt to politicize Canada’s Clean Fuel Regulation that could weigh on the refinery’s profitability when it goes into full effect in July or could simply incentivize the facility to send more product to the US.

RIN values saw their first bounce in a couple of weeks, with both D6 and D4 values climbing back above the $1.40 mark after their recent slide from the mid $1.50s. We’re still 6 days away from the EPA’s deadline to issue the final RFS ruling for the next couple of years.

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkWednesday, Jun 7 2023

Energy Prices Fluctuate: Chinese Imports Surge, Saudi Arabia Cuts Output and Buys Golf

Energy prices continue their back-and-forth trading, starting Wednesday’s session with modest gains, after a round of selling Tuesday wiped out the Saudi output cut bounce. 

A surge in China’s imports of crude oil and natural gas seem to be the catalyst for the early move higher, even though weak export activity from the world’s largest fuel buyer suggests the global economy is still struggling. 

New tactic?  Saudi Arabia’s plan to voluntarily cut oil production by another 1 million barrels/day failed to sustain a rally in oil prices to start the week, so they bought the PGA tour

The EIA’s monthly Short Term Energy Outlook raised its price forecast for oil, citing the Saudi cuts, and OPEC’s commitment to extend current production restrictions through 2024. The increase in prices comes despite reducing the forecast for US fuel consumption, as GDP growth projections continue to decline from previous estimates. 

The report included a special article on diesel consumption, and its changing relationship with economic activity that does a good job of explaining why diesel prices are $2/gallon cheaper today than they were a year ago.   

The API reported healthy builds in refined product inventories last week, with distillates up 4.5 million barrels while gasoline stocks were up 2.4 million barrels in the wake of Memorial Day. Crude inventories declined by 1.7 million barrels on the week. The DOE’s weekly report is due out at its normal time this morning. 

We’re still waiting on the EPA’s final ruling on the Renewable Fuel Standard for the next few years, which is due a week from today, but another Reuters article suggests that eRINs will not be included in this round of making up the rules.

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