Moves In Energy Futures Remain Relatively Muted

Market TalkFriday, Jan 29 2021
Late Rally Pushes Prices Into The Green

January trading is winding down with gasoline trying to lead the energy complex on another rally, while oil prices are resisting the pull higher. Both ULSD and RBOB futures are hovering near 11 month highs, with buyers pushing up crack spreads that are struggling to keep pace with surging RIN values that are threatening to be the straw that breaks the backs of some refiners struggling through the COVID demand destruction. 

The moves in energy futures remain relatively muted, even as equity markets around the world are seeing a sharp increase in volatility this week.  

Electric cars are all over the news this week after the President announced a plan to overhaul the federal fleet with electric vehicles, which caught many – who anticipated a push towards renewable fuels – off-guard. A Reuters report yesterday suggests that big oil lobbyists are reaching out to big ag in Washington to try and come up with a way to fight that plan. Meanwhile, GM announced plans to completely phase out internal combustion engine powered vehicles by 2035, joining California’s governor in the lofty electric vehicle goals that will be powered by _________ (they haven’t got that far yet). A recent study by California’s energy commission suggests to accomplish the goal, the state alone will need 1.5 million electric charging stations in the next 10 years, while the President’s plan lays out just 500,000 for the entire country.

Valero’s Q4 earnings release shed more light on the challenging operating environment for refiners. The company’s refining segment reported an operating loss of $476 million (excluding LIFO adjustments) during the quarter, compared to $1.4 billion in income during Q4 2019. The company’s renewable diesel and ethanol segments were profitable during the quarter, but also saw reduced earnings compared to the prior year. Perhaps most notable in the release is that Valero, via its Diamond Green joint venture, is planning to quadruple its renewable diesel production in the next couple of years with an expansion of their existing facility in St. Charles, and with a new plant at Valero’s Port Arthur refinery.

The EIA this morning published a closer look at the global demand destruction in Petroleum products last year, which shattered all records for the 40 some years the agency has been tracking this data.

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Market TalkFriday, Jul 19 2024

Summertime-Friday-Apathy Trade Influencing Energy Markets

Energy markets are treading water to start the day as the Summertime-Friday-Apathy trade seems to be influencing markets around the world in the early going. RBOB futures are trying for a 3rd straight day of gains to wipe out the losses we saw to start the week, while ULSD futures continue to look like the weak link, trading lower for a 2nd day and down nearly 3 cents for the week.

Bad to worse: Exxon’s Joliet refinery remains offline with reports that repairs may take through the end of the month. On top of that long delay in restoring power to the facility, ENT reported this morning that the facility has leaked hydrogen fluoride acid gas, which is a dangerous and controversial chemical used in alkylation units. Chicago basis values continue to rally because of the extended downtime, with RBOB differentials approaching a 50-cent premium to futures, which sets wholesale prices just below the $3 mark, while ULSD has gone from the weakest in the country a month ago to the strongest today. In a sign of how soft the diesel market is over most of the US, however, the premium commanded in a distressed market is still only 2 cents above prompt futures.

The 135mb Calcasieu Refinery near Lake Charles LA has been taken offline this morning after a nearby power substation went out, and early reports suggest repairs will take about a week. There is no word yet if that power substation issue has any impacts on the nearby Citgo Lake Charles or P66 Westlake refineries.

Two tanker ships collided and caught fire off the coast of Singapore this morning. One ship was a VLCC which is the largest tanker in the world capable of carrying around 2 million barrels. The other was a smaller ship carrying “only” 300,000 barrels (roughly 12 million gallons) of naphtha. The area is known for vessels in the “dark fleet” swapping products offshore to avoid sanctions, so a collision isn’t too surprising as the vessels regularly come alongside one another, and this shouldn’t disrupt other ships from transiting the area.

That’s (not) a surprise: European auditors have determined the bloc’s green hydrogen goals are unattainable despite billions of dollars of investment, and are based on “political will” rather than analysis. Also (not) surprising, the ambitious plans to build a “next-gen” hydrogen-powered refinery near Tulsa have been delayed.

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Market TalkThursday, Jul 18 2024

Refined Products Stanch Bleeding Despite Inventory Builds And Demand Slump

Refined products are trading slightly lower to start Thursday after they stopped the bleeding in Wednesday’s session, bouncing more than 2 cents on the day for both RBOB and ULSD, despite healthy inventory builds reported by the DOE along with a large slump in gasoline demand.

Refinery runs are still above average across the board but were pulled in PADD 3 due to the short-term impacts of Beryl. The Gulf Coast region is still outpacing the previous two years and sitting at the top end of its 5-year range as refiners in the region play an interesting game of chicken with margins, betting that someone else’s facility will end up being forced to cut rates before theirs.

Speaking of which, Exxon Joliet was reportedly still offline for a 3rd straight day following weekend thunderstorms that disrupted power to the area. Chicago RBOB basis jumped by another dime during Wednesday’s session as a result of that downtime. Still, that move is fairly pedestrian (so far) in comparison to some of the wild swings we’ve come to expect from the Windy City. IIR via Reuters reports that the facility will be offline for a week.

LA CARBOB differentials are moving in the opposite direction meanwhile as some unlucky seller(s) appear to be stuck long and wrong as gasoline stocks in PADD 5 reach their highest level since February, and held above the 5-year seasonal range for a 4th consecutive week. The 30-cent discount to August RBOB marks the biggest discount to futures since 2022.

The EIA Wednesday also highlighted its forecast for rapid growth in “Other” biofuels production like SAF and Renewable Naptha and Propane, as those producers capable of making SAF instead of RD can add an additional $.75/gallon of federal credits when the Clean Fuels Producer’s Credit takes hold next year. The agency doesn’t break out the products between the various “Other” renewable fuels, but the total projected output of 50 mb/day would amount to roughly 2% of total Jet Fuel production if it was all turned to SAF, which of course it won’t as the other products come along for the ride similar to traditional refining processes.

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Pivotal Week For Price Action