Muted Reaction In Both Futures And Cash Markets

Market TalkTuesday, Aug 31 2021
Pivotal Week For Price Action

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.   

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Market Update 8.31.21

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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.

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