Energy Prices Moving Higher For 3rd Day

Market TalkThursday, Jan 31 2019
Petroleum Complex Selling Off

Energy prices are moving higher for a 3rd day to start Thursday’s session, with momentum from some bullish data points in the DOE report, and a market-friendly FOMC statement carrying through from Wednesday’s session. Prices are once again within striking distance of their December highs, which capped the last rally attempt, and look to be the difference between this rally lasting a few days, and it lasting a few weeks.

A little Patience from the FED went a long way in financial markets, with US equity markets surging after the central bank sent a strong signal that it would not rush further monetary tightening. Monday the CME’s FEDWATCH tool showed roughly a 20% chance of at least 1 more interest rate hike in 2019, and a 10% probability of a decrease. This morning, after the “patience statement”, there’s a 5% chance of an increase, and a 20% chance of a decrease in the next 12 months. You can argue whether or not this is good for the economy as a whole, but it’s hard to argue that more accommodative monetary policy is anything but good news for stock markets.

Reports (also known as rumors) that the White House was considering a release of the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve to counter any negative effects from the Venezuelan sanctions suggest the administration has a much better handle on how to work the media than they do an oil refinery. In reality, if the rumors manage to take the steam out of the rally in oil & products futures, that would seem to be a mission accomplished, even if there is a negative impact to Gulf Coast refiners.

Speaking of which, while much of the focus is on potential fall-out with Citgo and its 2 Gulf Coast refineries due to sanctions, it was Citgo’s Chicago-area headline that had the most market impact Wednesday, when reports of a reduction in processing rates due to extreme cold sent Chicago gasoline prices up nearly 10 cents on the day.

Speaking of refinery run cuts: The headline drop of 586,000 barrels/day of refinery throughput seemed to catch some traders off-guard based on the strong reaction in refined product prices after the report. Then again, even after the 3.4% drop during the week, refinery runs are still 450,000 barrels/day higher than they were this time last year…and last year’s figure was a record high for the 4th week in January.

Unbelievable? The weekly gasoline demand estimate from the DOE surged nearly 8% last week, and at 9.56 million barrels/day is ½ million bpd higher than this time last year, and is at a level historically only witnessed during the summer driving season. Considering the numerous anecdotes about gasoline consumption slowing last week on the heels of 2 winter storms. Read the methodology notes from the EIA if you need a reminder why the weekly estimates are not reliable as a true indicator of actual consumption. If the theory that implied demand spiked as secondary fuel inventories were stockpiled ahead of the storm, we should see a large correction in the estimate in the next 2 weeks.

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkFriday, Feb 23 2024

The DOE Report Sparked A Solid Rally In Energy Futures Thursday, But That Upward Momentum Proved Short-Lived

The DOE report sparked a solid rally in energy futures Thursday, but that upward momentum proved short-lived as prices gave back those gains overnight, despite US equity markets surging to all-time highs.

The weekly inventory report showed US refiners are struggling to come back online from a busy maintenance season that was further complicated by January’s cold snap and the unexpected shut down at BP Whiting. Refinery utilization held near 80% on the week, which helped pull gasoline inventories lower despite sluggish demand and a surge in imports along the East Coast. Diesel demand showed a big recovery from last week’s ugly estimate, and when you factor in the missing 4-5% that doesn’t show up due to RD not being included in the reports, actual consumption looks much healthier than the report suggests.

Based on reports of restarts at several major refineries this week, we should see those utilization numbers pick up in next week’s report.

The EPA Thursday approved year-round E15 sales in 8 corn-growing states, despite the fact that the extra ethanol blends have been shown more to pollute more in the warm times of the year. The effective date was pushed back a year however in a show of election-year tight rope walking, which the EPA couched as ensuring that the move wouldn’t lead to a spike in fuel prices this summer.

Of course, the law of unintended consequences may soon be at play in a region that tends to be long gasoline supply for large parts of the year. Removing 5% of the gasoline demand could be another nail in some of the smaller/less complex refineries’ coffins, which would of course make fuel supply less secure, which contradicts one of the main arguments for making more 198 proof grain alcohol and selling it as fuel. Ethanol prices meanwhile continue to slump to multi-year lows this week as low corn prices continue to push unusually high production, and the delayed effective date of this ruling won’t help that.

While Nvidia’s chip mania is getting much of the credit for the surge in equity prices this week, there was also good news for many more companies in reports that the SEC was planning to drop its requirements on Scope 3 emissions reporting which is particularly useful since most people still can’t figure out what exactly scope 3 emissions really are.

In today’s segment of you can’t make this stuff up: The case of chivalry gone wrong with the BP/TA acquisition, and a ketchup caddy company caught spoofing electric capacity.

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
Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Feb 22 2024

RBOB And ULSD Futures Down Around 2.5 Cents After A Mixed Performance Wednesday

Refined products are leading the energy complex lower to start Thursday’s trading with both RBOB and ULSD futures down around 2.5 cents after a mixed performance Wednesday.

The API reported another large build in crude oil inventories last week, with inventories up more than 7 million barrels while gasoline inventories increased by 415,000 barrels and diesel stocks dropped by 2.9 million. The crude oil build was no doubt aided once again by the shutdown of BP’s Whiting refinery that takes nearly ½ million barrels/day of oil demand out of the market. That facility is said to be ramping up operations this week, while full run rates aren’t expected again until March. The DOE’s weekly report will be out at 11am eastern this morning.

Too much or not enough? Tuesday there were reports that the KM pipeline system in California was forced to shut down two-line segments and cut batches in a third due to a lack of storage capacity as heavy rains have sapped demand in the region. Wednesday there were new reports that some products ran out of renewable diesel because of those pipeline delays, bringing back memories of the early COVID lockdown days when an excess of gasoline caused numerous outages of diesel.

The Panama Canal Authority has announced $8.5 billion in sustainability investments planned for the next 5 years. Most of those funds are aimed at sustainability efforts like modernizing equipment and installing solar panels, while around $2 billion is intended for a better water management system to combat the challenges they’ve faced with lower water levels restricting transit by 50% or more in the past year. More importantly in the near term, forecasts for the end of the El Nino pattern that contributed to a record drought, and the beginning of a La Nina pattern that tends to bring more rain to the region are expected to help improve water levels starting this summer.

The bad news is that La Nina pattern, coupled with historically warm water temperature has Accuweather forecasters sounding “Alarm Bells” over a “supercharged” hurricane season this year. Other years with a similar La Nina were 2005 which produced Katrina, Rita and Wilma and 2020 when we ran out of names, and the gulf Coast was repeatedly pummeled but markets didn’t react much due to the COVID demand slump. Perhaps most concerning for the refining industry is that unlike the past couple of years when Florida had the bullseye, the Texas coast is forecast to be at higher risk this year.

RIN prices continued their slide Wednesday morning, trading down to 38 cents/RIN before finally finding a bid that pushed values back to the 41-42 cent range by the end of the day.

The huge slide in RIN values showed up as a benefit in Suncor’s Q4 earnings report this morning, as the Renewable Volume Obligation for the company dropped to $4.75/barrel vs $8.55/barrel in Q4 of 2022. Based on the continued drop so far in 2024, expect that obligation to be nearly cut in half again. Suncor continued the trend of pretty much every other refiner this quarter, showing a dramatic drop in margins from the record-setting levels in 2022, but unlike a few of its counterparts over the past week was able to maintain positive earnings. The company noted an increase in refining runs after recovering from the Christmas Eve blizzard in 2022 that took down its Denver facility for months but did not mention any of the environmental challenges that facility is facing.

Valero’s McKee refinery reported a flaring event Wednesday that impacted multiple unites and lasted almost 24 hours. Meanwhile, Total reported more flaring at its Pt Arthur facility as that plant continues to struggle through restart after being knocked offline by the January deep freeze.

Speaking of which, the US Chemical Safety board released an update on its investigation into the fire at Marathon’s Martinez CA renewable diesel plant last November, noting how the complications of start -up leave refineries of all types vulnerable.

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