The Latest Bubble In Diesel Prices Looks Like It May Have Popped This Week

Market TalkWednesday, Oct 19 2022
Pivotal Week For Price Action

The latest bubble in diesel prices looks like it may have popped this week as November ULSD futures have dropped more than 30 cents after touching a fresh high for October early in Tuesday’s session. Refinery restarts seem to be a major contributor to the pullback in distillates, while crude oil and gasoline are ticking modestly higher to start the day.

Exxon reported that restart of its 2 French refineries is underway after their strikes were resolved late last week, but it could take 2-3 weeks to get those plants back up to full speed.  Total’s refineries remain closed but their union employees have just agreed to terms on restart this morning, so those efforts should begin soon. 

NY Harbor ULSD Prices look like they may have made the turn towards normal as both basis values and time spreads have seen some modest selling pressure over the past 24 hours after the 2nd biggest rally on record. The restart of the French refineries from their unexpected downtime, along with a couple of East Coast plants ramping up after planned maintenance both seem like they could help this trend continue, with the wild card being how many, if any, cargoes were locked in for delivery to take advantage of that spike. 

Midwestern diesel values look like they may attempt to take over the most expensive in the nation status as the peak of harvest demand season has pushed differentials north of 40 cents/gallon vs the November futures, which is 50-75 cents above the cash markets that are already transitioning to trading vs December futures.

Tuesday’s reports that the President would announce another (relatively small) release from the SPR got credit for some of the selling that took place, although as details emerged, the barrels announced were actually part of the original 180 million barrel released announced earlier this year, as it’s taking longer than expected to get those barrels to the market.   Meanwhile, the actual announcement is expected later today on what they’ll try to do to cool prices.  

The API reported inventory draws across the board last week with crude stocks down 1.3 million barrels, distillates down 1 and gasoline down 2 million barrels. The crude oil decline is a sign of US production stagnating and the SPR releases slowing, which may foreshadow more of what’s to come once those SPR releases finally end.  Read this note from the Financial Times on why the rise of passive investors could be contributing to the lackluster drilling activity in the US. The DOE’s weekly report is due out at its normal time this morning.

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Market Talk Update 10.19.2022

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
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