Energy Futures On Cusp Of Technical Collapse

Market TalkWednesday, Mar 15 2023
Pivotal Week For Price Action

WTI dropped below $70 for the first time since December 2021 overnight as markets around the world continue to reel from the fallout of multiple bank failures over the past week. Refined products are now teetering on the edge of a technical breakdown that could knock another 10-15 cents off of prices in short order and given the “risk off” sentiment gripping markets this week, it’s not hard to imagine that type of push lower in the next day or two regardless of any fundamental news.

Look at how the financial world has changed in just 1 week. Last Wednesday, no one thought the FED would hold rates steady at the March FOMC meeting, while 78% odds were given to a 50-point rate hike. Today, there’s a zero percent chance of a 50-point rate hike given and 40% odds that the FED will not raise rates at all. 

OPEC’s monthly oil market report kept its forecast for global oil demand steady for the year, as stronger economic growth in China was expected to be enough to offset the slowdown in activity in the US and Europe.  The report also highlighted the counter-seasonal weakness in distillates globally in February, as new refinery output in Asia put downward pressure on prices across the rest of the world, while the lack of winter heating demand kept buyers on the sidelines. The cartel’s total output ticked up by 117mb/day in February, with gains from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Libya offsetting declines in Angola and Iraq.

The API reported that US Gasoline stocks dropped by 4.6 million barrels last week, while distillates declined by 2.9 million barrels and crude oil stocks increased by 1.1 million barrels.  The EIA’s report is due out at its normal time this morning and may be shrugged off if there are fireworks going off in equity markets when it’s released as suddenly the Crude oil Adjustment factor just doesn’t seem so interesting. 

French strikes are continuing for an 8th day, with some refinery disruptions ongoing, but with generally much less impact than what we saw last fall when many fueling stations in the country ran dry.  It appears that the turnout for the protests has waned in the past several days, which is allowing some fuel shipments to continue.  A parliamentary vote is expected Thursday, which could mean more urgent protesting if pension reforms are passed, or celebrations and a return to normal operations if it fails. 

LyondellBasell issued a press release Tuesday that included an industry leading number of corporate buzzwords. The announcement obfuscated news that it had not found a buyer for its Houston refinery, and would continue with plans to exit the business, and perhaps retrofit the facility to produce Hydrogen as part of its “Circular & Low Carbon Solutions”.

The Deer Park refinery offered another example of how complicated the refining process can be, and why startups can be the most dangerous time for a facility when another fire broke out Tuesday, as the plant was attempting to restart operations after another fire in February.  

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Market Talk Update 03.15.2023

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Mar 30 2023

Refined Products Are Moving Lower For A 2nd Day After Coming Under Heavy Selling Pressure In Wednesday’s Session

Refined products are moving lower for a 2nd day after coming under heavy selling pressure in Wednesday’s session. Rapidly increasing refinery runs and sluggish diesel demand both seemed to weigh heavily on product prices, while crude oil is still benefitting from the disruption of exports from Iraq. Prices remain range-bound, so expect more choppy back and forth action in the weeks ahead.

US oil inventories saw a large decline last week, despite another 13-million barrels of oil being found in the weekly adjustment figure, as imports dropped to a 2-year low, and refinery runs cranked up in most regions as many facilities return from spring maintenance.

The refining utilization percentage jumped to its highest level of the year but remains overstated since the new 250,000 barrels/day of output from Exxon’s Beaumont facility still isn’t being counted in the official capacity figures. If you’re shocked that the government report could have such a glaring omission, then you haven’t been paying attention to the Crude Adjustment figure this year, and the artificially inflated petroleum demand estimates that have come with it.

Speaking of which, we’re now just a couple of months away from WTI Midland crude oil being included in the Dated Brent index, and given the uncertainty in the US over what should be classified as oil vs condensate, expect some confusion once those barrels start being included in the international benchmark as well.  

Diesel demand continues to hover near the lowest levels we’ve seen for the first quarter in the past 20+ years, dropping sharply again last week after 2 straight weeks of increases had some markets hoping that the worst was behind us. Now that we’re moving out of the heating season, we’ll soon get more clarity on how on road and industrial demand is holding up on its own in the weekly figures that have been heavily influenced by the winter that wasn’t across large parts of the country.

Speaking of which, the EIA offered another mea culpa of sorts Wednesday by comparing its October Winter Fuels outlook to the current reality, which shows a huge reduction in heating demand vs expectations just 6-months ago.  

It’s not just domestic consumption of diesel that’s under pressure, exports have fallen below their 5-year average as buyers in South America are buying more Russian barrels, and European nations are getting more from new facilities in the Middle East.

Take a look at the spike in PADD 5 gasoline imports last week to get a feel for how the region may soon be forced to adjust to rapidly increasing refining capacity in Asia, while domestic facilities come under pressure

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
Market TalkWednesday, Mar 29 2023

Crude Oil Prices Are Trying To Lead Another Rally In Energy Futures This Morning

Crude oil prices are trying to lead another rally in energy futures this morning, while ULSD prices are resisting the pull higher. Stocks are pointed higher in the early going as no news is seen as good news in the banking crisis.

WTI prices have rallied by $10/barrel in the past 7 trading days, even with a $5 pullback last Thursday and Friday. The recovery puts WTI back in the top half of its March trading range but there’s still another $7 to go before the highs of the month are threatened. 

Yesterday’s API report seems to be aiding the continued strength in crude, with a 6 million barrel inventory decline estimated by the industry group last week. That report also showed a decline of 5.9 million barrels of gasoline which is consistent with the spring pattern of drawdowns as we move through the RVP transition, while distillates saw a build of 550k barrels. The DOE’s weekly report is due out at its normal time this morning. 

Diesel prices seems to be reacting both to the small build in inventories – which is yet another data point of the weak demand so far this year for distillates – and on the back of crumbling natural gas prices that settled at their lowest levels in 2.5 years yesterday and fell below $2/million BTU this morning. 

While diesel futures are soft, rack markets across the Southwestern US remain unusually tight, with spreads vs spot markets approaching $1/gallon in several cases as local refiners go through maintenance and pipeline capacity for resupply remains limited. The tightest supply in the region however remains the Phoenix CBG boutique gasoline grade which is going for $1.20/gallon over spots as several of the few refineries that can make that product are having to perform maintenance at the same time. 

French refinery strikes continue for a 4th week and are estimated to be keeping close to 1 million barrels/day of fuel production offline, which is roughly 90% of French capacity and almost 1% of total global capacity. That disruption is having numerous ripple effects on crude oil markets in the Atlantic basin, while the impact on refined product supplies and prices remains much more contained than it was when this happened just 5 months ago.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action