Recovery Rally Continues as Refinery Runs Remain Below Par

Market TalkWednesday, Feb 8 2023
Pivotal Week For Price Action

The recovery rally continues for energy prices this morning. ULSD futures have rallied 31 cents off of Monday’s low trade, cutting their losses of the prior two weeks by a third, while basis values across much of the country continue to strengthen as well pushing cash prices sharply higher. Gasoline prices are up 21 cents from their Monday lows and look poised to continue to push higher. 

The EIA’s short term energy outlook forecast that US refinery runs will remain below normal levels through April as lingering issues from the Christmas blizzard, and heavier than normal spring maintenance after numerous plants deferred work in 2022 will both limit production. 

The biggest change in the report was a 30% drop in just 1 month for the US natural gas price forecast as the much warmer than expected winter weather has hampered demand. That phenomenon has no doubt played a role in the huge drop in diesel prices over the past couple of weeks as well as heating oil suppliers along the east coast went from very short on supplies in November to having a glut in February.

The EU Ban on waterborne petroleum products may end up being more disruptive to markets than the crude oil import ban that started in December, and actually forecast a higher number for Russian oil production this year than previously expected. Limited clean tanker availability is expected to be the bottleneck for products whereas so far there have been enough dirty ships to keep most Russian oil moving to alternate markets. Read this Reuters note on how these changes are creating windfalls for shippers and some Asian refiners. 

An FT article following the STEO highlighted that the EIA is subtly forecasting that US Gasoline demand will continue to decline over the next two years, which is taken as a signal that it will never again reach the levels we saw before the pandemic. One analyst was quoted in the article as saying that the “heyday of gasoline is over”. Keep in mind that analyst comes from the same parent company that rated credit default swaps as AAA grade investments back in 2008. 

The API reported builds in refined product inventories of 5.2 million barrels for gasoline and 2.7 million barrels for diesel, while crude stocks declined by 2.2 million barrels on the week.  Those numbers seem to have had minimal impact on outright prices so far but may help explain why the gains in RBOB so far are less than half of those for ULSD in the early going.  Considering we managed to go an entire week without a major refinery upset, and many drivers across the south were forced to stay off the roads for 2-3 days, the build in gasoline inventories is really not surprising at all. We’ll get the EIA’s version of the weekly stocks at the regular time today.

LA CARB Diesel basis differentials jumped by 12 cents/gallon Tuesday, after going almost a week without a price change. That basis rally combined with the strong move in futures to push cash prices up more than 25 cents on the day. Reports of a fire at an LA fire could be to blame for the jump, although the lack of trading for several days, and a return to more normal demand patterns after a terribly wet January could also be at play.

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

Market Talk 02.08.2023

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Market TalkFriday, Mar 1 2024

Oil Futures Are Leading The Energy Complex In A Modest Rally To Begin March Trading

Oil futures are leading the energy complex in a modest rally to begin March trading, with WTI and Brent both up around $1.50/barrel, while refined products are adding around 2 cents in the early going.

RBOB gasoline futures rolled to a summer-grade RVP with the April contract in prompt position this morning. West Coast cash markets are already converted to summer grades, so they’re holding their premiums to futures, while the markets east of the Rockies are now trading at substantial discounts to futures as they move through their remaining winter-cycles over the next 4-6 weeks. The high trade for the April RBOB contract last month was just north of $2.63, which sets the first layer of resistance to a March madness gasoline rally just about 3 cents north of current values.

While gasoline looks somewhat bullish on the charts, and has seasonal factors working in its favor, diesel prices look weak in comparison with prices reaching a 6-week low Thursday before finally finding a bid, and the roll to April futures cut out 3 cents from prompt values. Diesel prices also don’t enjoy the seasonal benefits of gasoline, with a winter-that-wasn’t offering no help for supplemental diesel demand to replace natural gas in the US or Europe.

Speaking of winter weather, the West Coast continues to get the worst of it in 2024, with a casual 10 feet of snow with 100+ mile an hour wind gusts hitting the Sierra Nevada range. While the worst of that winter storm is happening far from the coast, the San Francisco bay area is under a gale warning starting this afternoon.

The wildfires in the Texas panhandle are now the largest in state history, impacting more than 1 million acres of land. The P66 Borger refinery is caught between the blazes, but so far has not reported any operational issues or plans to change operations at the facility. Valero’s McKee refinery is located just 50 miles from Borger, but looks to be far enough north and West to not be threatened by the fires, for now at least.

Mass Exxodus? A Reuters report noted that Exxon had notified its traders that it was cutting their salaries, in another sign that the major’s move back into trading wasn’t going so well. Exxon’s Exodus has already been a bit of a joke for the past few years, and now that the traders are being targeted, don’t be surprised if the cube photos are taken to a new level.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Feb 29 2024

It's Another Mixed Start For Energy Futures This Morning After Refined Products Saw Some Heavy Selling Wednesday

It's another mixed start for energy futures this morning after refined products saw some heavy selling Wednesday. Both gasoline and diesel prices dropped 7.5-8.5 cents yesterday despite a rather mundane inventory report. The larger-than-expected build in crude oil inventories (+4.2 million barrels) was the only headline value of note, netting WTI futures a paltry 6-cent per barrel gain on the day.

The energy markets seem to be holding their breath for this morning’s release of the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The price index is the Fed’s preferred inflation monitor and has the potential to impact how the central bank moves forward with interest rates.

Nationwide refinery runs are still below their 5-year average with utilization across all PADDs well below 90%. While PADD 3 production crossed its 5-year average, it’s important to note that measure includes the “Snovid” shutdown of 2021 and throughput is still below the previous two years with utilization at 81%.

We will have to wait until next week to see if the FCC and SRU shutdowns at Flint Hills’ Corpus Christi refinery will have a material impact on the regions refining totals. Detail on the filing can be found on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality website.

Update: the PCE data shows a decrease in US inflation to 2.4%, increasing the likelihood of a rate cut later this year. Energy futures continue drifting, unfazed.

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