Oil And Gasoline Prices Are Rallying Thursday After A Big Wednesday Sell-Off

Market TalkThursday, Nov 10 2022
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Oil and gasoline prices are rallying Thursday after a big Wednesday sell-off as a better-than-many-expected inflation report has taken the focus away from concerns about slumping fuel demand

US equity futures are seeing huge gains this morning following a CPI report that came in far below estimated levels.  RBOB futures have been following stocks relatively closely over the past couple of weeks and have rallied to 6 cent gains after that report while diesel prices are resisting and still trading lower for the day so far.   

NY Harbor ULSD basis set a new record at $1.25 over December ULSD futures Wednesday, which means someone was willing to pay $1.25 per gallon to have diesel today rather than taking delivery in New York Harbor by the end of December. That phenomenon is creating all sorts of ripple effects up and down the East Coast, as those with extra inventory in tank try to draw it down to avoid the 2-3 cent/day slide in values, while those with trucks search far and wide for supply a state or two south that costs substantially less.

LA Spot gasoline basis surged north of $1/gallon above RBOB futures Wednesday following the Tuesday night fire at an LA refinery. Later in the day reports surfaced that the fire did not impact production units, which may mean we’ll soon see another dramatic reversal in those prices. 

The EIA’s monthly Short Term Energy Outlook (STEO) forecast that the US would officially move into a recession late in 2022, and emerge from it in the back half of 2023. Despite the drop in demand that would come with that prediction, the report increased its forecasted diesel prices for the next year since their models suggest that won’t be enough to offset the historically low supplies in many parts of the world. New refinery capacity in the Middle East and China is coming online just in time to help with the diesel crunch, although shipping logistics will remain a bottleneck as Russian distillates will no longer flow via pipeline to Europe next year. This article from John Kemp of Reuters explains why new exports from China can help, but can’t solve the problem.

The STEO report also forecast that the tight diesel supplies will help put downward pressure on gasoline prices as refiners can still operate profitably thanks to distillate cracks well north of $1/gallon margin, even if it means taking a hit to find a home for the gasoline that nobody wants over the winter time. 

The DOE’s weekly report helped support that theory as US refinery runs continue at above-average levels in all 5 PADDs, despite the large drops in refining capacity over the past several years.  Many plants had to complete substantial maintenance this fall after many projects were delayed in the prior years. A tick higher in US diesel imports also showed that the global market can still react to high prices, despite the challenges of ocean freight logistics both domestically and abroad. Gasoline stocks dropped to a fresh 8 year low last week as strong exports and a tick higher in domestic consumption estimates helped offset the increase in refining output.

Ethanol prices have seen a healthy pullback over the past 2 days as the “cooling off” period to avoid a rail strike was extended to early December, and US ethanol production increased for a 4th straight week, which is helping keeping US inventories well above their seasonal average levels.

Hurricane Nicole made landfall as a Category 1 storm overnight roughly 60 miles south of the port of Cape Canaveral. We should find out later today whether or not there’s any damage to the terminals that receive fuel shipments in the area, but given the proximity and strength of the storm, it seems like this should be a short lived issue. Power issues appear to be the most immediate threat as there have been multiple reports of power issues causing fuel terminals in Orlando and Tampa to be offline. 

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Market Talk Update 11.10.2022

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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.

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkWednesday, Feb 21 2024

It’s A Mixed Start For Energy Markets To Start Wednesday’s Session After A Heavy Round Of Selling Tuesday

It’s a mixed start for energy markets to start Wednesday’s session after a heavy round of selling Tuesday. RBOB gasoline futures are clinging to modest gains in the early going while the rest of the complex is moving lower.  

WTI is pulling back for a 2nd day after reaching a 3.5 month high just shy of $80. The pullback pushes prompt values back below the 200-day moving average, reducing the likelihood of a breakout to the upside near term.

ULSD values are down nearly 10 cents for the week and are down more than 26 cents from the high trade set February 9th. That pullback leaves ULSD in neutral territory and could act as a headwind for gasoline prices that still seem poised to at least attempt a typical spring rally that adds roughly 20-30% from winter values.

RIN prices continue their slide this week, with D6 and D4 values reaching new 4-year lows around $.41/RIN Tuesday, which is down just slightly from the $1.62/RIN they were going for a year ago.

HF Sinclair reported a loss for Q4 this morning, with its refining and renewables segments each losing roughly $75 million for the quarter. The change from a year ago in the refining segment is a harsh reminder of the cyclical nature of the business as earnings dropped more than $800 million year on year, with inventory cost adjustments accounting for roughly ¼ of that decline.   

While it wasn’t mentioned in the press release, HFS has the most direct exposure to New Mexico’s recent approval of a clean fuel standard that will start in 2026. That law will no doubt help the company’s struggling Renewables assets in the state but will also create extra costs for their traditional refining operations.

The EIA this morning noted that conditions in the Panama Canal improved slightly in January, allowing Gulf Coast exports to Asia, primarily of Propane and ethane, to increase. While transit capacity is still far below levels we saw before the drought reduced operations in the canal, any improvement offers welcome relief to shippers as they can avoid going the long-way around to avoid the violence in the Red Sea.

France’s navy didn’t waste any time getting into the Red Sea action, shooting down a pair of Houthi Drones less than a day after joining the EU’s official mission to assist in clearing the shipping lanes. It’s not yet clear whether this marks the first official military victory by the French since Napoleon. 

Reminder that the weekly inventory reports are delayed a day due to the holiday Monday.

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