Parade Of Winter Storms Hits Demand Across The Country

Market TalkWednesday, Feb 10 2021
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Oil and diesel prices are moving higher for an eighth straight day after Tuesday morning’s attempted sell-off proved to be short-lived. RBOB prices are struggling to keep up so far after a large build in U.S. gasoline inventories gave traders reason to pause. Tuesday’s bounce keeps the bullish trend lines intact, and the path open to test the 2020 highs set before COVID lockdowns became a reality even as more fundamental signs suggest this rally may have outkicked its coverage.

The API was reported to show a 3.5 million barrel draw in oil inventories last week, while distillates declined by just under ½ million barrels.  A large build in gasoline stocks of 4.8 million barrels seems to be the reason that the March RBOB contract is the only one of the big 4 petroleum futures trading in the red this morning, while the others add modest gains. The DOE’s weekly status report is due out at its normal time this morning, with the gasoline demand number sure to be closely watched as a parade of winter storms has hit demand across most of the country in the past two weeks.

Speaking of winter weather, a major cold snap is bringing temperatures well below normal for this time of year to a wide area of the country. Already, there are reports that several utilities are putting customers on notice that this could mean curtailments in natural gas availability due to a spike in heating demand. In years past this would often mean a spike in ULSD prices as heating oil demand for homes, and dyed diesel demand for power plant supplemental fuel. While we’ve been in the midst of a very strong rally in ULSD prices the past three months, this latest cold snap doesn’t appear to be doing much so far to add more fuel to the rally, with basis and time spreads hardly reacting over the past several days. A note this morning from the EIA may help explain why as the U.S. Northeast is still sitting on inventory levels for diesel that are well above normal levels.

The latest in the long line of refining casualties in the past year: Exxon announced it is closing one of the three remaining refineries in Australia, despite efforts from the government to bridge the gap until demand picks back up.

The Chevron refinery in Richmond, CA had a spill near its wharf in the San Francisco bay, but it appears that leak was contained, and given its relatively small size of around 600 gallons should not be a major issue for the bay area, or the refineries operations unless additional damage is discovered during the investigation. Bay area fuel diffs have been under heavy pressure lately as local shutdown orders continue to hamper fuel demand.

RIN markets have been relatively quiet this week after several weeks of wild trading as the political football known as the RFS continued to be punted back and forth in Washington. This week the EPA is hearing testimony on a proposed plan by the previous administration to extend the deadlines for complying with the RFS for 2019 and 2020, although a final ruling on that matter isn’t expected until the spring.

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

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Market TalkFriday, Apr 19 2024

Gasoline Futures Are Leading The Way Lower This Morning

It was a volatile night for markets around the world as Israel reportedly launched a direct strike against Iran. Many global markets, from equities to currencies to commodities saw big swings as traders initially braced for the worst, then reversed course rapidly once Iran indicated that it was not planning to retaliate. Refined products spiked following the initial reports, with ULSD futures up 11 cents and RBOB up 7 at their highest, only to reverse to losses this morning. Equities saw similar moves in reverse overnight as a flight to safety trade soon gave way to a sigh of relief recovery.

Gasoline futures are leading the way lower this morning, adding to the argument that we may have seen the spring peak in prices a week ago, unless some actual disruption pops up in the coming weeks. The longer term up-trend is still intact and sets a near-term target to the downside roughly 9 cents below current values. ULSD meanwhile is just a nickel away from setting new lows for the year, which would open up a technical trap door for prices to slide another 30 cents as we move towards summer.

A Reuters report this morning suggests that the EPA is ready to announce another temporary waiver of smog-prevention rules that will allow E15 sales this summer as political winds continue to prove stronger than any legitimate environmental agenda. RIN prices had stabilized around 45 cents/RIN for D4 and D6 credits this week and are already trading a penny lower following this report.

Delek’s Big Spring refinery reported maintenance on an FCC unit that would require 3 days of work. That facility, along with several others across TX, have had numerous issues ever since the deep freeze events in 2021 and 2024 did widespread damage. Meanwhile, overnight storms across the Midwest caused at least one terminal to be knocked offline in the St. Louis area, but so far no refinery upsets have been reported.

Meanwhile, in Russia: Refiners are apparently installing anti-drone nets to protect their facilities since apparently their sling shots stopped working.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Apr 18 2024

The Sell-Off Continues In Energy Markets, RBOB Gasoline Futures Are Now Down Nearly 13 Cents In The Past Two Days

The sell-off continues in energy markets. RBOB gasoline futures are now down nearly 13 cents in the past two days, and have fallen 16 cents from a week ago, leading to questions about whether or not we’ve seen the seasonal peak in gasoline prices. ULSD futures are also coming under heavy selling pressure, dropping 15 cents so far this week and are trading at their lowest level since January 3rd.

The drop on the weekly chart certainly takes away the upside momentum for gasoline that still favored a run at the $3 mark just a few days ago, but the longer term up-trend that helped propel a 90-cent increase since mid-December is still intact as long as prices stay above the $2.60 mark for the next week. If diesel prices break below $2.50 there’s a strong possibility that we see another 30 cent price drop in the next couple of weeks.

An unwind of long positions after Iran’s attack on Israel was swatted out of the sky without further escalation (so far anyway) and reports that Russia is resuming refinery runs, both seeming to be contributing factors to the sharp pullback in prices.

Along with the uncertainty about where the next attacks may or may not occur, and if they will have any meaningful impact on supply, come no shortage of rumors about potential SPR releases or how OPEC might respond to the crisis. The only thing that’s certain at this point, is that there’s much more spare capacity for both oil production and refining now than there was 2 years ago, which seems to be helping keep a lid on prices despite so much tension.

In addition, for those that remember the chaos in oil markets 50 years ago sparked by similar events in and around Israel, read this note from the NY Times on why things are different this time around.

The DOE’s weekly status report was largely ignored in the midst of the big sell-off Wednesday, with few noteworthy items in the report.

Diesel demand did see a strong recovery from last week’s throwaway figure that proves the vulnerability of the weekly estimates, particularly the week after a holiday, but that did nothing to slow the sell-off in ULSD futures.

Perhaps the biggest next of the week was that the agency made its seasonal changes to nameplate refining capacity as facilities emerged from their spring maintenance.

PADD 2 saw an increase of 36mb/day, and PADD 3 increased by 72mb/day, both of which set new records for regional capacity. PADD 5 meanwhile continued its slow-motion decline, losing another 30mb/day of capacity as California’s war of attrition against the industry continues. It’s worth noting that given the glacial pace of EIA reporting on the topic, we’re unlikely to see the impact of Rodeo’s conversion in the official numbers until next year.

Speaking of which, if you believe the PADD 5 diesel chart below that suggests the region is running out of the fuel, when in fact there’s an excess in most local markets, you haven’t been paying attention. Gasoline inventories on the West Coast however do appear consistent with reality as less refining output and a lack of resupply options both continue to create headaches for suppliers.

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