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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Market TalkFriday, Apr 19 2024

Gasoline Futures Are Leading The Way Lower This Morning

It was a volatile night for markets around the world as Israel reportedly launched a direct strike against Iran. Many global markets, from equities to currencies to commodities saw big swings as traders initially braced for the worst, then reversed course rapidly once Iran indicated that it was not planning to retaliate. Refined products spiked following the initial reports, with ULSD futures up 11 cents and RBOB up 7 at their highest, only to reverse to losses this morning. Equities saw similar moves in reverse overnight as a flight to safety trade soon gave way to a sigh of relief recovery.

Gasoline futures are leading the way lower this morning, adding to the argument that we may have seen the spring peak in prices a week ago, unless some actual disruption pops up in the coming weeks. The longer term up-trend is still intact and sets a near-term target to the downside roughly 9 cents below current values. ULSD meanwhile is just a nickel away from setting new lows for the year, which would open up a technical trap door for prices to slide another 30 cents as we move towards summer.

A Reuters report this morning suggests that the EPA is ready to announce another temporary waiver of smog-prevention rules that will allow E15 sales this summer as political winds continue to prove stronger than any legitimate environmental agenda. RIN prices had stabilized around 45 cents/RIN for D4 and D6 credits this week and are already trading a penny lower following this report.

Delek’s Big Spring refinery reported maintenance on an FCC unit that would require 3 days of work. That facility, along with several others across TX, have had numerous issues ever since the deep freeze events in 2021 and 2024 did widespread damage. Meanwhile, overnight storms across the Midwest caused at least one terminal to be knocked offline in the St. Louis area, but so far no refinery upsets have been reported.

Meanwhile, in Russia: Refiners are apparently installing anti-drone nets to protect their facilities since apparently their sling shots stopped working.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Apr 18 2024

The Sell-Off Continues In Energy Markets, RBOB Gasoline Futures Are Now Down Nearly 13 Cents In The Past Two Days

The sell-off continues in energy markets. RBOB gasoline futures are now down nearly 13 cents in the past two days, and have fallen 16 cents from a week ago, leading to questions about whether or not we’ve seen the seasonal peak in gasoline prices. ULSD futures are also coming under heavy selling pressure, dropping 15 cents so far this week and are trading at their lowest level since January 3rd.

The drop on the weekly chart certainly takes away the upside momentum for gasoline that still favored a run at the $3 mark just a few days ago, but the longer term up-trend that helped propel a 90-cent increase since mid-December is still intact as long as prices stay above the $2.60 mark for the next week. If diesel prices break below $2.50 there’s a strong possibility that we see another 30 cent price drop in the next couple of weeks.

An unwind of long positions after Iran’s attack on Israel was swatted out of the sky without further escalation (so far anyway) and reports that Russia is resuming refinery runs, both seeming to be contributing factors to the sharp pullback in prices.

Along with the uncertainty about where the next attacks may or may not occur, and if they will have any meaningful impact on supply, come no shortage of rumors about potential SPR releases or how OPEC might respond to the crisis. The only thing that’s certain at this point, is that there’s much more spare capacity for both oil production and refining now than there was 2 years ago, which seems to be helping keep a lid on prices despite so much tension.

In addition, for those that remember the chaos in oil markets 50 years ago sparked by similar events in and around Israel, read this note from the NY Times on why things are different this time around.

The DOE’s weekly status report was largely ignored in the midst of the big sell-off Wednesday, with few noteworthy items in the report.

Diesel demand did see a strong recovery from last week’s throwaway figure that proves the vulnerability of the weekly estimates, particularly the week after a holiday, but that did nothing to slow the sell-off in ULSD futures.

Perhaps the biggest next of the week was that the agency made its seasonal changes to nameplate refining capacity as facilities emerged from their spring maintenance.

PADD 2 saw an increase of 36mb/day, and PADD 3 increased by 72mb/day, both of which set new records for regional capacity. PADD 5 meanwhile continued its slow-motion decline, losing another 30mb/day of capacity as California’s war of attrition against the industry continues. It’s worth noting that given the glacial pace of EIA reporting on the topic, we’re unlikely to see the impact of Rodeo’s conversion in the official numbers until next year.

Speaking of which, if you believe the PADD 5 diesel chart below that suggests the region is running out of the fuel, when in fact there’s an excess in most local markets, you haven’t been paying attention. Gasoline inventories on the West Coast however do appear consistent with reality as less refining output and a lack of resupply options both continue to create headaches for suppliers.

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