Energy Markets Are Ticking Modestly Higher Heading Into The Easter Weekend With Crude Oil Prices Leading The Way Up About $1.25/Barrel Early Thursday Morning

Market TalkThursday, Mar 28 2024
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Energy markets are ticking modestly higher heading into the Easter Weekend with crude oil prices leading the way up about $1.25/barrel early Thursday morning, while gasoline prices are up around 2.5 cents and ULSD futures are about a penny.

Today is the last trading day for April HO and RBOB futures, an unusually early expiration due to the month ending on a holiday weekend. None of the pricing agencies will be active tomorrow since the NYMEX and ICE contracts are completely shut, so most rack prices published tonight will carry through Monday.

Gasoline inventories broke from tradition and snapped a 7 week decline as Gulf Coast supplies increased, more than offsetting the declines in PADDs 1, 2 and 5. With gulf coast refiners returning from maintenance and cranking out summer grade gasoline, the race is now officially on to move their excess through the rest of the country before the terminal and retail deadlines in the next two months. While PADD 3 run rates recover, PADD 2 is expected to see rates decline in the coming weeks with 2 Chicago-area refineries scheduled for planned maintenance, just a couple of weeks after BP returned from 7 weeks of unplanned repairs.

Although terminal supplies appear to be ample around the Baltimore area, we have seen linespace values for shipping gasoline on Colonial tick higher in the wake of the tragic bridge collapse as some traders seem to be making a small bet that the lack of supplemental barge resupply may keep inventories tight until the barge traffic can move once again. The only notable threat to refined product supplies is from ethanol barge traffic which will need to be replaced by truck and rail options, but so far that doesn’t seem to be impacting availability at the rack. Colonial did announce that they would delay the closure of its underutilized Baltimore north line segment that was scheduled for April 1 to May 1 out of an “abundance of caution”.

Ethanol inventories reached a 1-year high last week as output continues to hold above the seasonal range as ethanol distillers seem to be betting that expanded use of E15 blends will be enough to offset sluggish gasoline demand. A Bloomberg article this morning also highlights why soybeans are beginning to displace corn in the subsidized food to fuel race.

Flint Hills reported a Tuesday fire at its Corpus Christi West facility Wednesday, although it’s unclear if that event will have a material impact on output after an FCC unit was “stabilized” during the fire. While that facility isn’t connected to Colonial, and thus doesn’t tend to have an impact on USGC spot pricing, it is a key supplier to the San Antonio, Austin and DFW markets, so any downtime may be felt at those racks.

Meanwhile, P66 reported ongoing flaring at its Borger TX refinery due to an unknown cause. That facility narrowly avoided the worst wildfires in state history a few weeks ago but is one of the frequent fliers on the TCEQ program with upsets fairly common in recent years.

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

Market Talk Update 3.28.2024

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkWednesday, Jul 17 2024

Energy Markets Are Trying To Find A Price Floor After Gasoline And Crude Oil Staged A Healthy Bounce To Minimize The Heavy Losses

Energy markets are trying to find a price floor after gasoline and crude oil staged a healthy bounce to minimize the heavy losses we saw early in Tuesday’s session. WTI is leading the move higher early Wednesday, up nearly $.90/barrel in the early going, while RBOB prices are up just under a penny.

Diesel continues to look like the weak link in the energy chain both technically and fundamentally. Tuesday the API reported a 4.9 million barrel build in diesel stocks, while gasoline inventories were only up 365,000 barrels, and crude oil stocks declined by more than 4.4 million barrels. The DOE’s weekly report is due out at its normal time this morning and it’s likely we’ll see a reduction in oil output and PADD 3 refining runs thanks to shut ins ahead of Hurricane Beryl, but otherwise the storm appears to be a relative non-issue with only 1 notable refining hiccup, that wasn’t even as bad as a midwestern Thunderstorm.

Chicago basis values rallied Tuesday after reports that Exxon had shut down the 250mb/day Joliet refinery following severe storms that knocked out power to the area Sunday. RBOB differentials surged nearly 9 cents on the day, while diesel diffs jumped more than a nickel. With 3 large refineries in close proximity, the Chicago cash market is notoriously volatile if any of those facilities has an upset. Back in May there was a one-day spike in gasoline basis of more than 50 cents/gallon after Joliet had an operating upset so don’t be surprised if there are bigger swings this week if the facility doesn’t come back online quickly.

Moving in the opposite direction, California basis values are heading the opposite direction with the transition to August scheduling pressuring CARBOB differentials in LA and San Francisco to their biggest discounts to prompt RBOB futures in more than 18 months. Gasoline imports into PADD 5 have held well above average levels over the past 2 months, which has more than offset the loss of the P66 Rodeo refinery’s output after it completed its conversion to RD production, in another sign of how growing refining capacity in China and other Asian countries may become more influential to the US. California regulators may also pat themselves on the back that their new plans to force refineries to report their gross profit monthly, in addition to the rules requiring all bulk trades in the state be reported must be driving the lower gasoline differentials, assuming they figure out what a basis differential is.

Meanwhile, California’s Carbon Allowance values have tumbled to their lowest levels in a year after a CARB presentation last week suggested the agency would be delaying long-anticipated tightening of the Cap and Trade program until 2026.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkTuesday, Jul 16 2024

The Sell-Off In Energy Markets Continues, With Refined Products Reaching Their Lowest Levels In A Month Early In Tuesday’s Session

The sell-off in energy markets continues, with refined products reaching their lowest levels in a month early in Tuesday’s session. Reports of slowing growth in China, the world’s largest oil purchaser, is getting much of the credit for the slide in prices so far this week, although that doesn’t do much to explain why refined products are outpacing the drop in crude.

ULSD futures are leading the early move lower, trading down a nickel on the day, and marking a 19 cent drop since July 4th. There’s not much in the way of technical support for ULSD, so don’t be surprised if this sell-off continues to pick up steam.

With today’s slide, RBOB futures are down 17 cents from where they were trading on July 4th, and are just a couple of cents from testing their 200-day moving average. Should that support break, it looks like there’s a good chance to test the June lows around $2.29.

Physical markets are not offering any strength to the futures market with all 6 of the major cash markets for diesel across the US trading at a discount to ULSD futures, while only 1 gasoline market is trading at a premium to RBOB futures. That combination of weakness in futures and cash markets is going to be troubling for refiners who are seeing margins reduce during what is traditionally a strong time of year.

The EIA highlighted the energy trade between the US and Mexico in a report Monday, showing that despite so many claims of energy independence from Mexican officials, the actual amount of refined fuels and natural gas bought from the US continues to increase. That’s good news for many US refiners who have become more dependent on Mexican purchases to find a home for their output.

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