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How Long Until Power Comes Back On?

Thursday, Feb 18 2021
Market Talk

How long until the power comes back on? That’s the big question being asked by millions of people across the U.S. and Mexico, and a huge proportion of the energy industry as the remnants of a brutal stretch of winter weather moves East, and the thawing out process begins. In addition to the direct impact, the trickle down effects of the collapse in oil, refined products, natural gas and ethylene production are being felt around the world

The refining hubs along the Gulf Coast from Corpus Christi to New Orleans have temperatures above freezing this morning, and should stay that way for the next week, except for a few hours tonight. If that thaw allows most plants to resume operations by the weekend, the impact of this chaotic event should be short-lived. Of course, the warm up also means that more drivers are about to hit the road, while terminals and stations that have been closed for a few days may or may not be able to come back online with supply, power and/or intact pipes to meet demand. 

If you remember the panic buying in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, it’s not hard to imagine that the next few days could create a demand spike as news of the refinery shutdowns hits the mainstream just in time for people to start leaving their homes again, and could create a preventable panic phenomenon which could create supply shortages all on its own.

The Houston ship channel was able to resume limited operations after the ice blocking shipping lanes started to break up, a most unusual occurrence that may have some Texans reluctant to use the phrase “When Hell Freezes over” ever again. 

We did see some heavy selling for about an hour Wednesday morning after a WSJ report that said Saudi Arabia was going to increase its oil output now that prices had recovered. That wave of selling wiped out the early gains for crude and product futures, but was fairly short lived and the march higher picked up later in the morning.

Basis markets continue to show strength for both gasoline and diesel grades across most U.S. spot markets, but those moves are still relatively minor compared to disruptions we’ve witnessed over the past two decades, a testament to the excess capacity in the U.S. and the softer-than-normal demand environment. In addition to stronger spot prices, numerous rack markets stretching from Arizona to Maryland have switched from seeing suppliers having to offer steep discounts to move product during the winter doldrums, to enforcing strict allocations as resupply options become questionable.

The API reported large draws in oil and diesel stocks last week, while gasoline stocks had another large build. The DOE’s weekly report is due out at 10 a.m. central today, and should give some glimpse into the impact on gasoline demand caused by the winter storms that battered the East Coast two weeks ago, that now appear quaint in comparison. Don’t expect the report to move the market much as last Friday’s data doesn’t mean much after almost 1/3 of the country’s refining capacity was forced to cut back this week.

In other non-frozen refinery news this week, Calumet laid out plans to convert part of its Great Falls Montana facility to Renewable Diesel production this week in an SEC filing, joining a long list of refiners looking to jump on the BTC/RIN/LCFS and new Canadian CFS programs that combined can offer more than $4.50/gallon in subsidies for RD production. The company also closed on the sale and leaseback of its Shreveport facility in an effort to save enough cash to survive the weak margin environment that was hammering refineries before the storms hit.

Great Falls Renewable Diesel Opportunity:

We believe Great Falls, which connects western agriculture with West Coast and Canadian clean product markets, presents one of the most compelling opportunities for Renewable Diesel production in North America. We estimate the oversized hydrocracker built in 2016 can be reconfigured to process 10-12,000 BPD renewable feedstock at the lowest capital cost per barrel of any announced industry project.   Hydrocracker conversions are typically faster to market, cheaper, and less technically challenging. In addition, the planned configuration could retain 10-12,000 BPD low-cost Canadian crude processing, providing Montana customers with clean energy and our unique specialty asphalt.  Future dual train operations are currently estimated to generate $220 to $260 million of Adjusted EBITDA assuming mid-cycle market prices and existing environmental market structure (BTC, RINs, LCFS). 
Given strong investor interest in renewables, Calumet expects to utilize third party equity for this unique opportunity, without expending Calumet funds.

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

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