Markets Around The World Are Seeing Big Swings Over The Past 24 Hours As The Unknowns Of Monetary Policy

Market TalkThursday, Sep 22 2022
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Markets around the world are seeing big swings over the past 24 hours as the unknowns of monetary policy, war strategy and storm paths all converge. It’s not unusual for the day after an FOMC announcement to see big price swings, and today in particular is set up for big moves after the FED made it clear it prefers a recession to inflation, and numerous other banks followed suit. 

ULSD has been the most volatile contract in the energy complex this week, with multiple 10 cents swings in various directions as demand fears and supply fears manage to both grip parts of the global distillate market simultaneously. Adding to the uncertainty this week, Exxon’s refinery in France is facing a strike as employees see more leverage than ever given the weakened state of Europe’s energy supplies. 

2 brothers were killed in the fire at the Husky refinery in Ohio, adding a tragic turn to the supply shortages in the area, which have sent Chicago basis values soaring.  That plant is completely offline, and may stay so for weeks as the investigation continues, further complicating resupply efforts. The Explorer pipeline froze nominations shortly following that fire as shippers raced to find replacement options from other regions, quickly maxing out the pipe’s capacity.  See the PADD 2 inventory charts below for perspective on how unusually low supplies in the Midwest are as a rash of refinery issues, and lack of shipments from the Gulf Coast – who is busy supplying the rest of the Western hemisphere – draw down stocks.  PADD 2 refinery runs did see a 2nd straight large increase, largely due to the BP Whiting plant coming back online after a fire a few weeks ago.

The storm currently known as 98L continues to move towards the Caribbean with 90% odds of development in the next 5 days.  Florida looks like it is still has the highest odds of getting hit by this storm (soon to be named Hermine) although the GEFS model has shifted it further West in the past 24 hours which puts Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana all in the range of potential landing zones. While the odds may still be low, Louisiana has been a hurricane magnet the past two seasons, so those refineries and off-shore facilities will not breathe easy until this system is long gone. Hurricane Fiona meanwhile continues to churn north after battering several islands as a category 3 or 4 storm, and now sets its sites on Atlantic Canada.  The Irving refinery in St. John looks like it will avoid a hit from this storm, while the long-idled and struggling to convert to RD production refinery in Come-By-Chance could still take a hit from this system. 

Refinery production increased again last week, holding near the top end of the seasonal range as plants defer maintenance to try and continue maximizing output during these times of tight supply (and high margins). Compare this year’s refinery runs to 2021 and 2020 which both saw big storm-induced declines, and you’ll get a feeling for why the industry is still holding its breath to make it another month without a direct hit on refinery row.

One item to keep an eye on (if you didn’t have enough already): US ethanol production dropped to its lowest level since the great freeze of 2021 wreaked havoc on fuel producers of all varieties, which pushed ethanol inventories to their lowest levels of the year. Ethanol prices have been pulling back since the railroads narrowly dodged a major strike, so this drop in production could be a short term anomaly tied to maintenance or timing the corn crop, but if not, it could further complicate the refined fuel supply network since gasoline is no good in most cases without 190 proof grain alcohol to go with it.

West Coast (PADD 5) gasoline stocks look like they turned the corner on the charts with a small increase last week, but that did little to stop the squeeze on prompt supplies as San Francisco values shot up to a $1.70/gallon premium to futures and PNW values traded north of $1.40, which puts current values back close to $4/gallon. 

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

Market Talk Udpate 09.22.22

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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.