The Question Roiling Equity Markets

Market TalkFriday, Oct 9 2020
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It’s a weak start to end a strong week for energy prices that have had plenty of back and forth action from the storms swirling around Louisiana and Washington D.C. 

Delta looks like it should have relatively minor impacts on supply infrastructure along the gulf coast. Potentially, there should be no noticeable impact on the adjacent markets, as it’s taking a favorable track while it heads towards landfall tonight. 

Stimulus or not continues to be the question roiling equity markets this week with a flurry of mixed signals from both the legislative and executive branches of government, and many are expecting more volatility due to uncertainty surrounding the election.

After all the choppiness in the past few weeks, refined product prices find themselves essentially in the middle of the sideways trading range that’s held them since June, leaving the technical outlook neutral near term, while longer term charts still hint at a larger move lower if prices can’t sustain a rally soon.

Delta is currently a Category 3 storm with winds around 120 miles an hour, and is expected to make landfall east of Lake Charles later tonight with winds around 100 miles an hour. It looks like Delta will hit less than 20 miles from where Laura made landfall, with numerous homes and businesses still not repaired from that storm. The good news is Delta is not nearly as powerful as Laura (100 mph vs. 150 mph for Laura) and Lake Charles looks like it will stay on the west side of the storm instead of taking a direct hit like it did six weeks ago. However Delta is a very large storm, so storm surge, tornados and power outages are expected to threaten almost all of the entire Louisiana coast line. 

The current path of the storm would essentially thread the needle by hitting right in the middle of a 350 mile stretch of coastline. This is home to 27 refineries, which accounts for 40% of total U.S. capacity. The eye of the storm would not come within 30 miles of any one of those plants. Most of the facilities in Lake Charles and Pt. Arthur aren’t betting that will mean no impact on operations however, with many shutting units until the storm passes, as power outages are still a major concern and have the potential to be much more widespread than the storm itself.      

OPEC’s World Oil Outlook highlighted the numerous challenges faced by the industry in the coming years due to COVID and the accelerated push towards renewables in many areas, but still estimates that oil will continue to be the largest piece of the global energy puzzle through 2045. The report also suggests that global oil consumption will continue to grow during the next 25 year stretch, although developed countries like the U.S. may have already seen their peak oil demand, and that a wave of oil refinery consolidation is required to balance the market.

A handful of other highlights from the WOO:

  • Oil demand growth is expected to recover during the medium-term, linked to demand ‘catching up,' especially in the sectors affected the most by restrictions during the COVID-19 crisis. These include the aviation, road transport and industry sectors.

  • U.S. tight oil will grow until around 2030, but not as much as previously expected

  • Crude distillation capacity is expected to increase by 15.6 mb/d until 2045, with a significant slowdown in the rate of required additions

  • Natural gas will be the fastest-growing fossil fuel between 2019 and 2045

  • ‘Other renewables’ [Solar, Wind, Geothermal] retain the position of fastest growing source of energy in both relative and absolute terms

This article on the concerns over cooking and heating fuel shortages due to the closure of Newfoundland’s only refinery offers a glimpse of the numerous logistical headaches that will come from the rash of closures taking place around the world. In short, there’s still ample supply around the world, but the distribution network will take years to adjust. 

One of the more popular of the numerous “clean” energy sources that are making their way through the news lately is Hydrogen. A WSJ article Thursday noted that the biggest challenge facing this alternative fuel is it requires lots of fossil fuels to produce.

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

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkFriday, Feb 23 2024

The DOE Report Sparked A Solid Rally In Energy Futures Thursday, But That Upward Momentum Proved Short-Lived

The DOE report sparked a solid rally in energy futures Thursday, but that upward momentum proved short-lived as prices gave back those gains overnight, despite US equity markets surging to all-time highs.

The weekly inventory report showed US refiners are struggling to come back online from a busy maintenance season that was further complicated by January’s cold snap and the unexpected shut down at BP Whiting. Refinery utilization held near 80% on the week, which helped pull gasoline inventories lower despite sluggish demand and a surge in imports along the East Coast. Diesel demand showed a big recovery from last week’s ugly estimate, and when you factor in the missing 4-5% that doesn’t show up due to RD not being included in the reports, actual consumption looks much healthier than the report suggests.

Based on reports of restarts at several major refineries this week, we should see those utilization numbers pick up in next week’s report.

The EPA Thursday approved year-round E15 sales in 8 corn-growing states, despite the fact that the extra ethanol blends have been shown more to pollute more in the warm times of the year. The effective date was pushed back a year however in a show of election-year tight rope walking, which the EPA couched as ensuring that the move wouldn’t lead to a spike in fuel prices this summer.

Of course, the law of unintended consequences may soon be at play in a region that tends to be long gasoline supply for large parts of the year. Removing 5% of the gasoline demand could be another nail in some of the smaller/less complex refineries’ coffins, which would of course make fuel supply less secure, which contradicts one of the main arguments for making more 198 proof grain alcohol and selling it as fuel. Ethanol prices meanwhile continue to slump to multi-year lows this week as low corn prices continue to push unusually high production, and the delayed effective date of this ruling won’t help that.

While Nvidia’s chip mania is getting much of the credit for the surge in equity prices this week, there was also good news for many more companies in reports that the SEC was planning to drop its requirements on Scope 3 emissions reporting which is particularly useful since most people still can’t figure out what exactly scope 3 emissions really are.

In today’s segment of you can’t make this stuff up: The case of chivalry gone wrong with the BP/TA acquisition, and a ketchup caddy company caught spoofing electric capacity.


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
Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Feb 22 2024

RBOB And ULSD Futures Down Around 2.5 Cents After A Mixed Performance Wednesday

Refined products are leading the energy complex lower to start Thursday’s trading with both RBOB and ULSD futures down around 2.5 cents after a mixed performance Wednesday.

The API reported another large build in crude oil inventories last week, with inventories up more than 7 million barrels while gasoline inventories increased by 415,000 barrels and diesel stocks dropped by 2.9 million. The crude oil build was no doubt aided once again by the shutdown of BP’s Whiting refinery that takes nearly ½ million barrels/day of oil demand out of the market. That facility is said to be ramping up operations this week, while full run rates aren’t expected again until March. The DOE’s weekly report will be out at 11am eastern this morning.

Too much or not enough? Tuesday there were reports that the KM pipeline system in California was forced to shut down two-line segments and cut batches in a third due to a lack of storage capacity as heavy rains have sapped demand in the region. Wednesday there were new reports that some products ran out of renewable diesel because of those pipeline delays, bringing back memories of the early COVID lockdown days when an excess of gasoline caused numerous outages of diesel.

The Panama Canal Authority has announced $8.5 billion in sustainability investments planned for the next 5 years. Most of those funds are aimed at sustainability efforts like modernizing equipment and installing solar panels, while around $2 billion is intended for a better water management system to combat the challenges they’ve faced with lower water levels restricting transit by 50% or more in the past year. More importantly in the near term, forecasts for the end of the El Nino pattern that contributed to a record drought, and the beginning of a La Nina pattern that tends to bring more rain to the region are expected to help improve water levels starting this summer.

The bad news is that La Nina pattern, coupled with historically warm water temperature has Accuweather forecasters sounding “Alarm Bells” over a “supercharged” hurricane season this year. Other years with a similar La Nina were 2005 which produced Katrina, Rita and Wilma and 2020 when we ran out of names, and the gulf Coast was repeatedly pummeled but markets didn’t react much due to the COVID demand slump. Perhaps most concerning for the refining industry is that unlike the past couple of years when Florida had the bullseye, the Texas coast is forecast to be at higher risk this year.

RIN prices continued their slide Wednesday morning, trading down to 38 cents/RIN before finally finding a bid that pushed values back to the 41-42 cent range by the end of the day.

The huge slide in RIN values showed up as a benefit in Suncor’s Q4 earnings report this morning, as the Renewable Volume Obligation for the company dropped to $4.75/barrel vs $8.55/barrel in Q4 of 2022. Based on the continued drop so far in 2024, expect that obligation to be nearly cut in half again. Suncor continued the trend of pretty much every other refiner this quarter, showing a dramatic drop in margins from the record-setting levels in 2022, but unlike a few of its counterparts over the past week was able to maintain positive earnings. The company noted an increase in refining runs after recovering from the Christmas Eve blizzard in 2022 that took down its Denver facility for months but did not mention any of the environmental challenges that facility is facing.

Valero’s McKee refinery reported a flaring event Wednesday that impacted multiple unites and lasted almost 24 hours. Meanwhile, Total reported more flaring at its Pt Arthur facility as that plant continues to struggle through restart after being knocked offline by the January deep freeze.

Speaking of which, the US Chemical Safety board released an update on its investigation into the fire at Marathon’s Martinez CA renewable diesel plant last November, noting how the complications of start -up leave refineries of all types vulnerable.

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