Energy Futures Rallying To Start November Trading With ULSD Once Again Leading The Way Higher After Another Inventory Draw

Market TalkWednesday, Nov 1 2023
Pivotal Week For Price Action

The latest escalations in the Middle East have energy futures rallying to start November trading with ULSD once again leading the way higher after another inventory draw.

So far, the rally hasn’t tested the downward sloping trend lines on the weekly charts, although the early momentum makes a run at that chart resistance feel inevitable in the early going. Peg the $3 range as the pivotal level for ULSD, while RBOB faces a similar test around $2.30.  If those trend lines break, there’s another 20+ cents of room to run higher on the charts, while another failure suggests there’s quite a bit more downside ahead.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels took credit for a missile and drone attack against Israel overnight, which Israel says they thwarted.  At first glance, this is an easy reason for energy futures to rally as it’s a confirmed escalation of the war in the Middle East.  When you dig deeper however, you may recall that Saudi Arabia has been at war with the Houthis for more than a decade, and their participation may all-but-guarantee that the Saudi’s won’t side with the nations fighting Israel this time around, and this could actually end up being bearish for prices. 

The FOMC will make its latest announcement later this afternoon but given the low correlation between price moves in equities, currencies and energy prices lately this seems to have a low likelihood of moving prices in a big way today. The CME’s FedWatch tool shows that hardly anyone is betting on a change in interest rates at today’s meeting, with 97% probability of a hold priced into Fed Fund futures. The outlook for the next few months is less certain, with roughly 1/3 of the money betting on at least 1 more 25-point increase.

The API reported gasoline stocks drew by 357,000 barrels last week, while distillate inventories drew by 2.3 million barrels and crude inventories increased by 1.3 million.  The EIA’s weekly report is due out at its normal time today, before it will be delayed for system upgrades next week. 

Bad to Worse:  Shippers have been struggling to deal with a big drop in capacity through the Panama Canal due to a record drought this year, which took daily movements down from 39 ships/day to 31. Canal operators just signaled that things are about to get much worse, with plans to cut movements to just 18 ships/day in February, a 54% drop from 2022 levels. This slowdown is impacting all sorts of industries as the canal handles roughly 3% of all global trade, and the Renewable Diesel space seems to be particularly hard hit by this disruption as new Gulf Coast production struggles to find a way to get to the West Coast to take advantage of the extra credit values that are necessary to make that product competitive with traditional diesel.

LA spot diesel basis rallied 10 cents Tuesday after reports to the AQMD of unplanned flaring at PBF’s refinery in Torrance. ENT later reported that a hydrogen unit was taken offline following a fire, reducing production at the facility’s distillate hydrocracker, which encouraged buyers to step in after watching basis values drop by 60 cents throughout October.

Ethanol prices have continued their slide this week, ending October with values below $2/gallon in Chicago and New York, the first time we’ve seen that since April 2021. Low corn prices and decent margins for producers seem to be contributing to the price slide as producers may be encouraged to keep ethanol production high even as we approach the winter demand doldrums. 

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Market Talk Update 11.01.2023

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkFriday, Jun 21 2024

Charts Continue To Suggest We’re In For A Period Of Sideways Trading

It’s another quiet start for energy markets that seem to have entered the summer doldrums where peak gasoline demand for the year meets peak disinterest as many in the industry start taking vacations. Charts continue to suggest we’re in for a period of sideways trading now that the big June recovery bounce seems to have run out of steam.

Tropical storm Alberto dissipated over Mexico Thursday, but not before its far-stretching thunderstorms upset another refinery in the Corpus Christi area. Flint Hills reported a boiler was knocked offline at its East Corpus refinery, a day after Citgo reported an upset at its East facility as well. Large parts of Texas have been swimming in supply most of the year as neighboring markets to the North and West have been long, backing up barrels into the Lonestar state so these small upsets are unlikely to move the needle in terms of prices or allocations in the area, but they are a good reminder of how vulnerable these facilities are to the weather. The NHC is still tracking 2 more systems with coin-flip odds of being named in the next few days, but neither one looks like it’s headed for the oil production and refining zones in the Gulf Coast at this point.

Ukraine continues to pound Russian energy infrastructure, with 4 different refineries reportedly struck overnight, following attacks on multiple export facilities earlier in the week. The global market continues to largely shrug off the attacks, as excess refining capacity in Asia seems more than capable of picking up any slack in the supply network that may be caused by a loss in Russian output, which is a very stark contrast to what we were experiencing 2 years ago.

Another dip in capacity: The EIA reported a drop of 103mb/day of refining capacity in the US last week, the first reduction in capacity reported since before Russia invaded Ukraine. A general drop in capacity came as no surprise as the conversion of the P66 Rodeo refinery in the San Francisco Bay area earlier this year was well documented. The surprise in the figures was that the East Coast made up 40% of the total decline, which may suggest those facilities which are generally disadvantaged due to labor costs and limitations in crude oil sourcing, are once again knocking on death’s door after a 2-year reprieve.

With the conversion of Rodeo, PADD 5 now has the least amount of refining capacity since the EIA started tracking that stat 40 years ago. Right on cue, the DOE also reported PADD 5 gasoline imports surged to the highest level in over 3 years last week, offering a glimpse of what lays ahead as the region will now be more dependent on shipments from across the Pacific to meet local demand.

Speaking of which, lobbying groups are filing responses to California Energy’s workshop proposals on new refinery rules to cap profits, using the forum to tout the advantages of whatever product they’re selling, and highlighting the risks of the state making itself a fuel island dependent on imports from overseas.

Another one bites the dust? BP “is pressing pause” on its biofuel project at its Cherry Point WA refinery this week, the latest in a line of biofuel producers to rethink plans to make diesel from soybeans and waste oils as subsidies have plunged. On top of plummeting LCFS and RIN values that have cut nearly $2/gallon out of the credit values of the fuel that costs $3-$4/gallon more than traditional diesel, the new Clean Fuel Production Credit is replacing the $1/gallon Blender’s Tax credit that’s been the lifeline to many producers over the past decade. The new program (which is part of the Inflation “Reduction” Act) sets a higher bar to clear before producers can get their handout, which means some domestic facilities will see another loss in credit values from 50-80 cents/gallon vs the BTC, while importers won’t qualify for any credit under the new program.

For real this time? Mexican officials continue to make up stories about when their new Dos Bocas refinery will begin producing fuels, kicking the can further down the road this week saying the facility will start up in the back half of the year. This is at least the 10th time officials have moved back the start date of the facility over the past few years and given that the back half of the year starts in 10 days, I’ll take the over on this bet. Refiners along the US Gulf Coast are no doubt celebrating anytime another delay is announced as they’re facing more competition than they have in the past two decades for their exports.

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
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Market TalkThursday, Jun 20 2024

Energy Futures Giving Back Yesterday's Holiday Shortened Session Gains

Energy futures are giving back almost all of the gains made during yesterday’s holiday-shortened session as a search for direction begins to emerge after crude oil and diesel prices reached 7-week highs. Charts suggest we may be in for a few weeks of sideways trading unless buyers can push prices up another 5-10 cents before the month's end.

A reminder that since futures didn’t settle yesterday, the price change you’re seeing today is relative to Tuesday’s close. Spot markets weren’t assessed yesterday. The DOE’s weekly status report will be released at 11 am Eastern.

Tropical storm Alberto was finally named Wednesday after a couple of days of a “potential tropical cyclone” label. While the storm is already moving inland over Mexico, it is having widespread impacts with parts of Texas already declaring states of emergency to deal with flooding.

Yesterday we mentioned that the heavy rains brought by this system may interfere with restart efforts at Citgo’s Corpus Christi West refinery, but it was actually their East Corpus Christi plant that reported flaring due to the “heavy rainfall event.” No units were reported to be shut from that upset, and if the refiners in the area can make it another 12 hours, they’ll have dodged their first storm bullet of the year.

Although the forecasts all said this would be an extremely busy year for storms, Alberto was actually the latest named storm in the Atlantic basin for a season in 10 years. Don’t worry though, it looks like we’ll quickly make up for lost time with two more systems being tracked. One on Alberto’s heels is given 50% odds of being named as it moves into the Gulf of Mexico this weekend, while the other lingering off the SE coast is only given 40% odds, but is still set to bring heavy rain to Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

The treasury and IRS published guidance on the Prevailing Wage and Apprenticeship (PWA) requirements for renewable fuel facilities to qualify for the new Clean Fuel Production Credit (CFPC) that will replace the blanket $1/gallon Blender’s Tax Credit next year. Without reaching the PWA standards, producers can get a maximum of $.20/gallon for Biodiesel and RD, and $.35/gallon for SAF. If a producer meets the PWA guidelines, they can theoretically earn 5 times the base amount, for a maximum of $1/gallon for RD and Bio and $1.75 for SAF. The actual amount will be calculated by multiplying the maximum credit times the fuel’s emissions factor, meaning many producers will earn much less than the current $1/gallon credit. It’s also worth noting again that importers will not qualify for the CFPC after many years of earning the BTC, which may shake up the supply outlook later this year as anyone who can, will race to dump their barrels into a US market before the credit goes away.

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