It’s Another Strong Start For Energy Markets Monday, Diesel Prices Once Again Leading The Charge Higher

Market TalkMonday, Mar 21 2022
Pivotal Week For Price Action

It’s another strong start for energy markets Monday, with diesel prices once again leading the charge higher. ULSD futures are up 20 cents on the day, and roughly 87 cents above their March 15 low, and 87 cents below their March 9 high. There are still many more questions than answers for the two big stories of the war in Ukraine and another COVID wave, but clearly supply concerns are winning out vs demand concerns in the early going. 

Baker Hughes reported a net decline of 3 oil rigs actively drilling in the US last week, while natural gas-focused rigs increased by 2. The slower-than-normal recovery in drilling over the past year has been well documented as banks are hesitant to lend to fossil fuel producers due to ESG pressure, leaving the smaller independent firms as big winners with oil over $100. A big question for the next few months is whether or not the warn on Russian oil will give the banks a reason to side step environmental pressures and go back to chasing the real green deals they’re interested in, and if so, how quickly can new projects bring oil and gas to market.

The surge in petroleum prices brings with it several different consequences, including a jump in retail fuel theft, and economic viability of several alternative fuels. A Rystad energy report this morning highlights the improving economics of Green Hydrogen production in Europe, although capacity remains limited.  The flip side to this phenomenon is that LCFS credits in California plunged to a 4 year low in the past week as increasing renewable diesel and natural gas production are adding more supply to the market. See chart below.

Great or terrible timing?  Money managers saw a big increase in short positions for WTI, ULSD and Gasoil contracts last week, which may mean some big funds feel like heroes if they sold the prior Wednesday before diesel prices dropped $1.75/gallon, or like goats if they sold later and were run over by the 80 cent rally of the past few days. Brent crude meanwhile saw the opposite with short positions dropping while new longs were added along with a jump in open interest, which makes sense given the relative lack of options for Europe vs the US.

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Market Talk Update 3.21.22

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkWednesday, May 29 2024

The Texas Power Grid Is Once Again In The Forefront After Another Round Of Storms Left Hundreds Of Thousands Without Power Tuesday

It’s a quiet start to Wednesday’s trading, with refined products up less than a penny in the early going, following a healthy bounce Tuesday that alleviated concerns of a technical price breakdown near term.

A container ship transiting the Red Sea was heavily damaged by a Houthi Missile attack Tuesday. While energy markets continue to shrug off the shipping disruptions caused by those attacks, container ports around the world are feeling its effects and emissions from shipping are increasing along with the longer routes taken to avoid the conflict.

Consolidation continues: Less than a day after Hess shareholders approved its sale to Chevron, Conoco Phillips is reportedly in advanced negotiations to buy Marathon Oil for $22 billion. To avoid confusion, this does not have anything to do with the refining operations at Phillips 66 or Marathon Petroleum, both of which were spun off from their upstream exploration and production companies more than a decade ago. Meanwhile, acquisition activity in the Permian basin remains hotter than drilling activity as Energy Transfer agreed to buy WTG for more than $3 billion.

The Texas power grid is once again in the forefront after another round of storms left hundreds of thousands without power Tuesday. A Reuters article this morning highlights the record setting growth of renewable energy in Texas along with the record use of fossil-based sources to meet the state’s rapid demand increases. This phenomenon isn’t unique to the Lonestar state, with many in the industry believing that electricity demand from AI, Crypto and EV’s will drive the next energy supply squeeze in coming years.

Slowdown coming? The Dallas Fed’s Texas Manufacturing survey showed negative readings on output, new orders and the business conditions outlook in May.

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkTuesday, May 28 2024

ULSD Is Leading The Move Higher This Morning With Prices Up Nearly A Nickel In The Early Going

Energy futures are attempting another recovery rally, with products up more than 7 cents from Friday’s early lows, while crude oil contracts have taken back $3/barrel over that time. ULSD is leading the move higher this morning with prices up nearly a nickel in the early going, while RBOB futures are up around 2.5 cents.

Money managers were adding net length in WTI, ULSD and Gasoil contracts last week with both new long positions and heavy short covering. Brent crude was a different story however with speculative net length in the European crude contract slashed by nearly 1/3 with nearly 33,000 new short positions added during the prior week. The big reduction in WTI shorts while Brent shorts are being added suggests the big play by hedge funds may be the WTI/Brent spread rather than bets on outright price movements.

Baker Hughes reported no change in the total oil rig count drilling in the US last week, holding steady at 497 vs 570 a year ago. Natural Gas rigs dropped by 4 on the week, reaching a 2 year low at 99 rigs, down from 137 this time last year. Natural gas prices have staged a big recovery from around $1.50/MMCF a month ago to $2.50 today, but current values are still not high enough to encourage drillers to get more active, particularly with more gas being produced from oil wells.

Deadly storms hit large parts of the country over the Holiday weekend, and continue this morning, but so far no reports of refinery damage from those systems has been reported. Marathon did report an upset in a Residual Hydrotreating unit at its Galveston Bay refinery Friday, but that event doesn’t appear to have slowed down the rest of the facility.

More bad news for US Bio producers: The EIA this morning highlighted the growth in biodiesel imports into the US from Europe – primarily Germany – as changing appetites for renewables and disjointed policies incent more barrels to travel long distances on diesel burning ships to find the highest tax credit value.

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Market TalkFriday, May 24 2024

Selling Continues In Energy Markets After Thursday's Reversal Rally Ran Out Of Steam In The Afternoon

The selling continues in energy markets after Thursday’s reversal rally ran out of steam in the afternoon, following the lead of U.S. equity markets which had a big sell-off on the day. Prices haven’t yet fallen below the multi-month lows we saw early last week, but we’re just a couple of cents away from those levels, and the potential technical trapdoor that could lead to sharply lower values over the next couple of weeks.

We did see a brief spike in gasoline futures after the settlement Thursday following reports that Colonial had shut down Line 4 due to an IT issue, but those gains were short-lived as the pipeline was restarted without issue a few hours later. Those who remember the chaos of May 2021 after Colonial was hacked are breathing a sigh of relief, particularly on one of the busiest demand days of the year, while others are no doubt disappointed we won’t get to see the rash of fake photos of people filling up plastic bags with gasoline.

OPEC & Friends (AKA the DoC) announced they’re moving June’s policy meeting to a virtual-only affair, which the market is taking as a signal of the status quo being held on output cuts.

Chicago being Chicago: Tuesday’s 60-cent basis spike was officially wiped out by Thursday afternoon, suggesting the short-lived rally was just short covering in an illiquid market rather than a meaningful supply disruption.

RIN values continued their rally this week, touching a 4-month high at 59 cents/RIN for both D4 and D6 values Thursday. If you believe in technical analysis on something like RINs, you can see a “W” pattern formed on the charts, suggesting a run to the 80-cent range is coming if prices can get above 60. If you are more of a fundamentalist, then you’ll probably think this rally is probably more short-term short-covering by producers of RD who have changed their schedule buying back their RIN hedges for volume they’re no longer planning to produce.

NOAA issued its most aggressive Hurricane forecast ever Thursday, joining numerous other groups that think a La Nina pattern and record warm waters will create more and bigger storms this year. With the activity level seeming to be a foregone conclusion at this point, now it’s all about where those storms hit to know if this busy season will be a huge factor in energy supplies like we saw in 2005, 2008, 2012 and 2017. With the Houston area already being bombarded by floods and deadly wind this year, the refinery row across the U.S. Gulf Coast seems even more vulnerable than normal to the effects of a storm.

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