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Muted Reaction In Both Futures And Cash Markets

Tuesday, Aug 31 2021
Market Talk

Energy futures are pulling back as August trading wraps up, with damage assessments along the Gulf Coast ongoing while the East Coast braces for another round of flooding rains as Ida moves north. While it will still take days to figure out the extent of the damage to one of the country’s largest oil hubs, the muted reaction in both futures and cash markets suggests the impact of this storm will not be widespread.

What a difference a decade makes: 2011 was the year the US became a net exporter of refined products for the first time since WWII. Prior to that, storms that made a direct hit on the country’s largest oil port, and 2nd largest refinery hub, would be expected to bring price spikes of $1/gallon or more. This time, gulf coast basis values barely flinched at one of the strongest storms to ever hit the Gulf Coast, even though it temporarily shuttered more than 10% of the country’s refining capacity and its largest pipeline, as the capacity to recover simply by not sending barrels to other countries has grown by millions of barrels/day.  

Colonial pipeline did report that it was planning on restarting its 2 mainlines Monday night after a precautionary shutdown Sunday. The pipeline formerly known as Plantation, is still operating, but like most in the Baton Rouge area, is struggling with power outages that could end up forcing the need for the line to slow or shut. Exxon’s Baton Rouge refinery, a key origin point for the FKA Plantation pipeline, reported that it was forced to shut multiple units due to a lack of steady power and refinery inputs.  Most of the other refineries that shut ahead of the storm have not yet made full damage assessments due to the widespread flooding and power issues.  Early estimates are that most avoided major damage, but power supply will be the bottleneck determining how fast restarts can begin.   

The EPA granted waiver requests allowing the sale of winter-grade gasoline (11.5lb rvp) 2 weeks earlier than normal in Mississippi and Louisiana to try and help alleviate any potential supply shortages.  Pipelines were already just days away from starting to schedule winter grades, and the scope of the waiver is limited to just the 2 states so far, so it shouldn’t put downward pressure on prices elsewhere in the region.

While all eyes were focused on Ida, Tropical storm Julian came and went over the open Atlantic, and Tropical Storm Kate has also formed but looks like it will stay out to sea. Next up in the list for the year is Larry, and the NHC is giving 90% odds of a system moving off the coast of Africa getting that name later this week. That system is a good reminder that we’re now into the “Cabo Verde” portion of the Hurricane season where the systems moving off the African coast become more frequent, and form some of the most powerful storms we see each year, which is scary considering what we just saw from Ida that didn’t have nearly as much time to develop. 

In non-storm news:

US equity indices reached fresh record highs (again) Monday, and are on pace for a 7th consecutive month of gains, just in time for the seasonal tick up in volatility. 

Following up on a White House request, the FTC said that it is looking into whether or not retail station mergers and acquisitions is creating illegal activity in the way gasoline prices are set. It’s hard to say what, if any, changes this may bring about in the industry, but it certainly seems like it could slow down the rapid consolidation of retail station owners we’ve seen over the past several years. 

The Dallas FED’s Texas Manufacturing Survey showed another month of expansion, but continued to highlight labor shortages and supply chain delays as major hurdles to continued growth. 

Speaking of which, Bloomberg provides today’s interesting read: The race to recruit women to help fill the labor gap in the trucking industry.   

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

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