Refined Product Prices Knocked Back From Multi-Year Highs

Market TalkThursday, May 6 2021
Pivotal Week For Price Action

The DOE’s weekly status report threw some cold water on the energy price rally Wednesday, knocking refined product prices back from multi-year highs. Disappointing demand estimates seemed to be the driver behind the selling that took place following the report, while a large draw in crude oil stocks looks temporary due to a surge in exports (that reached a 13 month high) and a large drop in imports that accounted for more than 20 million barrels of crude not hitting US stockpiles last week. 

Although the momentum may have been lost, the pullback in prices has been minor, which suggests that we’re just seeing a round of profit taking rather than a change in trend. 

Ethanol prices in the Chicago trading hub broke above $2/gallon 3 weeks ago, and then broke $2.50 yesterday as the grain-fueled rally has gone parabolic, adding 20 cents in just 3 days so far this week. China continues to buy record amounts of US ethanol, which is adding to the bullish frenzy in the market that’s becoming akin to the run-up in prices in 2008 when supply for diesel and crude oil struggled to keep up with export demand. As this rapid run-up in prices makes its way beyond the limited scope of wholesale fuel prices and into your grocery store, expect the debate of food vs fuel to heat up again, along with concerns about inflation across all aspects of the global supply chain. Ethanol production ticked up last week, helping US ethanol inventories to rise for the first time in 6 weeks according to the DOE report. 

RIN prices are following closely on the heels of ethanol prices, casually adding another 3-4 cents to their all-time highs Wednesday and bringing the weekly gains to 15 cents. At this point, there seems to be little standing in the way of prices continuing to run higher, but the extreme nature of these moves suggests that the drop will be spectacular whenever it finally happens. One warning sign for the bio-bulls: time spreads on crops are expanding their backwardation, suggesting this supply squeeze will end with the new crop.

The Marathon refinery in Texas City leaked hydrofluoric acid Tuesday, which sent two workers to the hospital, and is sure to drum up more debate about the use of controversial use of those dangerous chemicals in refinery operations. The plant, which is one of the largest in the country and has been struggling to return to normal operations since the polar plunge in February, is no stranger to controversy, as it faced one of the deadliest explosions in the history of the industry when it was known as the BP Texas City refinery back in 2005.

power outage in the panhandle of TX knocked the P66 Borger refinery offline Wednesday, which promises to keep racks in the region tight, just as they’ve been for the past two months.

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

Market Update 5-6-21

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkWednesday, Jul 17 2024

Energy Markets Are Trying To Find A Price Floor After Gasoline And Crude Oil Staged A Healthy Bounce To Minimize The Heavy Losses

Energy markets are trying to find a price floor after gasoline and crude oil staged a healthy bounce to minimize the heavy losses we saw early in Tuesday’s session. WTI is leading the move higher early Wednesday, up nearly $.90/barrel in the early going, while RBOB prices are up just under a penny.

Diesel continues to look like the weak link in the energy chain both technically and fundamentally. Tuesday the API reported a 4.9 million barrel build in diesel stocks, while gasoline inventories were only up 365,000 barrels, and crude oil stocks declined by more than 4.4 million barrels. The DOE’s weekly report is due out at its normal time this morning and it’s likely we’ll see a reduction in oil output and PADD 3 refining runs thanks to shut ins ahead of Hurricane Beryl, but otherwise the storm appears to be a relative non-issue with only 1 notable refining hiccup, that wasn’t even as bad as a midwestern Thunderstorm.

Chicago basis values rallied Tuesday after reports that Exxon had shut down the 250mb/day Joliet refinery following severe storms that knocked out power to the area Sunday. RBOB differentials surged nearly 9 cents on the day, while diesel diffs jumped more than a nickel. With 3 large refineries in close proximity, the Chicago cash market is notoriously volatile if any of those facilities has an upset. Back in May there was a one-day spike in gasoline basis of more than 50 cents/gallon after Joliet had an operating upset so don’t be surprised if there are bigger swings this week if the facility doesn’t come back online quickly.

Moving in the opposite direction, California basis values are heading the opposite direction with the transition to August scheduling pressuring CARBOB differentials in LA and San Francisco to their biggest discounts to prompt RBOB futures in more than 18 months. Gasoline imports into PADD 5 have held well above average levels over the past 2 months, which has more than offset the loss of the P66 Rodeo refinery’s output after it completed its conversion to RD production, in another sign of how growing refining capacity in China and other Asian countries may become more influential to the US. California regulators may also pat themselves on the back that their new plans to force refineries to report their gross profit monthly, in addition to the rules requiring all bulk trades in the state be reported must be driving the lower gasoline differentials, assuming they figure out what a basis differential is.

Meanwhile, California’s Carbon Allowance values have tumbled to their lowest levels in a year after a CARB presentation last week suggested the agency would be delaying long-anticipated tightening of the Cap and Trade program until 2026.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkTuesday, Jul 16 2024

The Sell-Off In Energy Markets Continues, With Refined Products Reaching Their Lowest Levels In A Month Early In Tuesday’s Session

The sell-off in energy markets continues, with refined products reaching their lowest levels in a month early in Tuesday’s session. Reports of slowing growth in China, the world’s largest oil purchaser, is getting much of the credit for the slide in prices so far this week, although that doesn’t do much to explain why refined products are outpacing the drop in crude.

ULSD futures are leading the early move lower, trading down a nickel on the day, and marking a 19 cent drop since July 4th. There’s not much in the way of technical support for ULSD, so don’t be surprised if this sell-off continues to pick up steam.

With today’s slide, RBOB futures are down 17 cents from where they were trading on July 4th, and are just a couple of cents from testing their 200-day moving average. Should that support break, it looks like there’s a good chance to test the June lows around $2.29.

Physical markets are not offering any strength to the futures market with all 6 of the major cash markets for diesel across the US trading at a discount to ULSD futures, while only 1 gasoline market is trading at a premium to RBOB futures. That combination of weakness in futures and cash markets is going to be troubling for refiners who are seeing margins reduce during what is traditionally a strong time of year.

The EIA highlighted the energy trade between the US and Mexico in a report Monday, showing that despite so many claims of energy independence from Mexican officials, the actual amount of refined fuels and natural gas bought from the US continues to increase. That’s good news for many US refiners who have become more dependent on Mexican purchases to find a home for their output.

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