Diesel Prices Ran Into A Wall At The $3.80 Mark Thursday And Quickly Dropped By 16 Cents In An Emphatic Demonstration Of Technical Resistance

Market TalkFriday, Jul 29 2022
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Diesel prices ran into a wall at the $3.80 mark Thursday, and quickly dropped by 16 cents in an emphatic demonstration of technical resistance, leaving the energy complex in its sideways trading range.  RBOB initially followed that pattern, dropping more than a dime after hitting the top end of its trading range, but then the expiring August contract decoupled from the rest of the energy train and continued moving higher, and setting a new record premium vs the 2nd month contract.

Today is the last trading day for the August RBOB and ULSD contracts, and the lack of volume on expiration day is already causing fireworks that look impressive on the charts, but won’t matter to almost everyone who buys fuel, since the September contracts will determine tonight’s pricing moves. For example: As of 8am central, August RBOB prices are up 15 cents/gallon, but most cash markets are following the September RBOB contract which is “only” up 6.

The extreme backwardation in gasoline prices is not just showing up in the futures market. Prompt RBOB values in the NYH are trading some 40 cents above values for barrels delivered 2 weeks from now, and 68 cents higher than RBOB on the Gulf Coast as a short squeeze for summer gasoline grips parts of the East Coast, even while other parts of the country are having trouble finding buyers. This seems to be a less extreme example of what we saw in April and May when New York Harbor diesel prices spiked to premiums of $1.20/gallon or more compared to its neighboring cash markets. The forward pricing curve suggest that this spread will collapse in August, just as we saw diesel premiums collapse in May (see charts below).

One extra challenge for the East Coast, there were several forecasts when the war in Ukraine started that European refiners would run full out to make as much diesel as possible, and end up with excess gasoline to be sent to the US, but some of those facilities are now running well below capacity as soaring natural gas costs (and/or limited supply) make operations uneconomical for some and unfeasible for others.  For those that remember last year’s freeze induced natural gas price spike and shortages that led to every refinery in Texas to cut operating rates, this scenario playing out in Europe is easy to understand, as is the potential fallout from the lack of output.

Right on cue, PBF announced it is bringing its idled crude unit in Paulsboro NJ back into operation after shutting it down to try and avoid bankruptcy during the depths of the COVID demand slump.

In other earnings news, Pemex announced that they made $862 million in EBITDA in the first 6 months of operations at the Deer Park refinery, which is $150 million more than they paid for their interest in the facility.  Still no word from Shell if they’d like a do-over on any of the refineries they dumped in the past two years. 

Valero joined most other refiners, smashing its records for profitability during the quarter, increasing run rates to 94% of capacity, up from 74% 2 years ago. The company also had record renewable diesel production, and expects its next RD expansion project to be completed by the end of the year. In a sign of the market’s skepticism over the forward outlook of fuel demand, the company’s stock dropped after the announcement even though earnings surpassed most published expectations.

The senate spending deal that surprised many this week has good news for biofuel producers in that the $1/gallon blenders tax credit is expected to be extended for another 2 years. One potentially painful mistake however is that the bill also includes a $1.25/gallon tax credit for sustainable aviation fuels, which means producers will get an extra 25 cents/gallon to make SAF instead of BIO or RD, which could heat up the feedstock wars once again and send fuel that had been used over the road for the past decade into the skies. The bill includes numerous other potential credits and incentives for both renewable and traditional fuel production, and capturing the carbon created by those projects.

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

Market Talk Update 7.29.22

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Market TalkFriday, May 24 2024

Selling Continues In Energy Markets After Thursday's Reversal Rally Ran Out Of Steam In The Afternoon

The selling continues in energy markets after Thursday’s reversal rally ran out of steam in the afternoon, following the lead of U.S. equity markets which had a big sell-off on the day. Prices haven’t yet fallen below the multi-month lows we saw early last week, but we’re just a couple of cents away from those levels, and the potential technical trapdoor that could lead to sharply lower values over the next couple of weeks.

We did see a brief spike in gasoline futures after the settlement Thursday following reports that Colonial had shut down Line 4 due to an IT issue, but those gains were short-lived as the pipeline was restarted without issue a few hours later. Those who remember the chaos of May 2021 after Colonial was hacked are breathing a sigh of relief, particularly on one of the busiest demand days of the year, while others are no doubt disappointed we won’t get to see the rash of fake photos of people filling up plastic bags with gasoline.

OPEC & Friends (AKA the DoC) announced they’re moving June’s policy meeting to a virtual-only affair, which the market is taking as a signal of the status quo being held on output cuts.

Chicago being Chicago: Tuesday’s 60-cent basis spike was officially wiped out by Thursday afternoon, suggesting the short-lived rally was just short covering in an illiquid market rather than a meaningful supply disruption.

RIN values continued their rally this week, touching a 4-month high at 59 cents/RIN for both D4 and D6 values Thursday. If you believe in technical analysis on something like RINs, you can see a “W” pattern formed on the charts, suggesting a run to the 80-cent range is coming if prices can get above 60. If you are more of a fundamentalist, then you’ll probably think this rally is probably more short-term short-covering by producers of RD who have changed their schedule buying back their RIN hedges for volume they’re no longer planning to produce.

NOAA issued its most aggressive Hurricane forecast ever Thursday, joining numerous other groups that think a La Nina pattern and record warm waters will create more and bigger storms this year. With the activity level seeming to be a foregone conclusion at this point, now it’s all about where those storms hit to know if this busy season will be a huge factor in energy supplies like we saw in 2005, 2008, 2012 and 2017. With the Houston area already being bombarded by floods and deadly wind this year, the refinery row across the U.S. Gulf Coast seems even more vulnerable than normal to the effects of a storm.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, May 23 2024

Gasoline Prices Have Finally Found A Bid, Trading Up 3 Cents On The Day

Gasoline prices have finally found a bid, trading up 3 cents on the day after coming within a penny and a quarter of the multi-month lows set last week overnight. ULSD prices are also up a couple of cents in the early going after wiping out the gains they made last week. Both contracts are once again threatening a technical breakdown that could push prices another 20-30 cents lower if the current bounce isn’t sustained.

The EIA’s estimate for gasoline demand surged to a 7-month high last week, capping off a 4th straight week of gains that puts total consumption near the top end of the seasonal range after a very sluggish start to the year. AAA estimates that travel this Memorial Day weekend will approach a 20 year high with nearly 44 million people hitting the roads.

The EIA also published a note this morning showing average US gasoline prices are up 1% from last year, accompanied by a chart showing that average prices are down 7 cents/gallon from this time last year. The spread between retail gasoline prices on the West Coast vs the rest of the country continues to grow and is shown to be over $1.20/gallon thanks to Oregon and Washington’s Californication of their energy policies in recent years.

The EIA still seems to be struggling to figure out its accounting methods for crude oil inventories, with the adjustment factor that’s been creating all sorts of confusion the past couple of years flipping from a negative 200,000 barrels/day last week, to a positive 1.4 million barrels/day this week. You could give the EIA compilation crew a break and say that this reflects just how large and complex the US crude oil supply network is, or you could ask how did they suddenly “find” 10-million barrels of oil that they didn’t see last week.

Refiners are cranking up run rates, exceeding the levels we’ve seen this time of year in either of the past 2 years. Those higher run rates are added to the glut of diesel products that’s hanging over the majority of the country, and pushing rack spreads to levels we haven’t seen since the COVID lockdown in several markets.

The export market for US crude and refined products remains very busy with nearly 10 million barrels shipped out of the country every day. Refinery throughput was 16.2 million barrels/day last week, and more than 6 million barrels/day was exported even though gasoline and diesel exports have stagnated this year. The anticipated tick higher in US diesel exports following the rash of Russian refinery attacks has not materialized, which is no doubt contributing to the negative sentiment for diesel prices over the past month. The busy and growing export market for crude and other products also creates an interesting dynamic as we prepare for a busy hurricane season to kick off in a week as any disruption to infrastructure along the Gulf Coast could limit product going out of the country almost as much as it disrupts products flowing inland.

Basis values for RBOB in Chicago dropped 30 cents Wednesday after Tuesday’s 60 cent spike. It’s still unclear what if any impacts the confirmed fire at Exxon’s Joliet refinery, or the rumored upsets at BP’s Whiting facility have had on actual supply in the region, but the quick pullback suggests this is a flash in the pan rather than the start of a prolonged supply shortage.

Exxon reported a leak at its Beaumont TX Chemical plant, but it appears that upset isn’t impacting the operations at its adjacent refinery.

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