President Considering Giving Refiners Relief

Market TalkFriday, Jun 11 2021
Pivotal Week For Price Action

The big story this morning is a report that the President is considering giving refiners relief from the RFS has refined products down around a nickel, as several options appear to be on the table to burst the RIN bubble, a day after they reached yet another record high. The big drop on what amounts to a rumor may seem dramatic, but for those that lived through the RINsanity trade of 2013 when EPA relief knocked credits from $1.40 to $.20 in just a few months, the reaction makes a lot more sense.

One detail from the report that seems to make it more likely that the EPA will act:  It’s 2 democratic Senators leading the discussions with the EPA, as they seek ways to save their state’s lone refinery. 

D4 Bio RINs traded up to $2.05 yesterday, while D6 ethanol RINs topped out just under $2.00. Early action in the OTC market suggest we’ll see a drop of at least 15 cents in those prices today with D6 RINs already for sale at $1.85 while bids are 10 cents lower than those offers.    

News that the U.S. had lifted sanctions on some individuals and companies in Iran briefly sent prices sharply lower in Thursday’s session, but those losses were quickly erased after it was clear that the majority of sanctions on the country were still in place, and that it was unlikely any new oil would find its way to the market as a result of this change. There will probably be headlines suggesting the lifting of those sanctions is the reason for the pullback in prices today, but given that refined products are down almost 2% while oil prices are flat, this seems to be driven by the RFS story, and not anything to do with Iran.

If the administration does change the RFS, that could very well break the bullish trend for refined products, and the charts suggest we might quickly see another 20-30 cents of downside as a result. On the other hand, fundamentally this could be bullish for Crude as it offers relief to the only real buyers of crude oil. The RVO value before today’s drop was $.23/gallon, so we could see much of that value come out of products, without changing the price of crude and refiners would effectively break even. Until we see some actual action from the EPA however, that strong of a move seems unlikely, and with the Supreme Court scheduled to make a ruling on the RFS small refinery waivers soon, it seems likely that the EPA may take a wait and see approach. 

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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