The Struggle For Renewable Producers Continues As A Rapid Influx Of Supply And Crashing Credit Prices Make Biodiesel

Market TalkTuesday, Apr 23 2024
Pivotal Week For Price Action

The sigh of relief selloff continues in energy markets Tuesday morning, with gasoline prices now down more than 20 cents in 7 sessions, while diesel prices have dropped 26 cents in the past 12. Crude oil prices are within a few pennies of reaching a 1 month low as a lack of headlines from the world’s hot spots allows some reflection into the state of the world’s spare capacity for both oil and refined products.

Gasoline prices are trading near a 6-week low this morning, but still need to fall about another nickel in order to break the weekly trendline that pushed prices steadily higher since December. If that trend breaks, it will be safer to say that we saw the end of the spring gasoline rally on April 12th for the 2nd year in a row. Last year RBOB futures peaked on April 12 at $2.8943 and bottomed out on May 4th at $2.2500. The high (at this point) for this year was set on April 12th at $2.8516, and the low overnight was $2.6454.

It’s not just energy commodities that are seeing an unwind of the “flight to safety” trade: Gold prices had their biggest selloff in 2 years Monday and continue to point lower today. Just how much money poured into commodities in the weeks leading up to the direct confrontation between Israel and Iran is unclear, but we have seen in year’s past that these unwind-events can create a snowball effect as traders can be forced to sell to cover their margin calls.

Supply > Demand: The EIA this morning highlighted the record setting demand for natural gas in the US last year, which was not nearly enough to offset the glut of supply that forced prices to a record low in February. A shortage of natural gas in Europe was a key driver of the chaotic markets that smashed just about every record in 2022, and an excess of natural gas supply in Europe and the US this year is acting as a buffer, particularly on diesel prices.

The struggle for renewable producers continues as a rapid influx of supply and crashing credit prices make Biodiesel, RD and SAF unprofitable for many. In addition to the plant closures announced in the past 6 months, Vertex Energy reported Monday it’s operating its Renewable Diesel facility in Mobile AL at just 50% of capacity in Q1. The truly scary part for many is that the $1/gallon Blender's tax credit ends this year and is being replaced by the “Clean” Fuel production credit that forces producers to prove their emissions reductions in order to qualify for an increased subsidy. It’s impossible to say at this point how much the net reduction will be for domestic producers, but importers will get nothing, and at current CI values, many biodiesel producers may see their “blend credit” cut by more than half.

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Market Talk Update 04.23.2024

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Market TalkFriday, May 17 2024

The Recovery Rally In Energy Markets Continues For A 3rd Day

The recovery rally in energy markets continues for a 3rd day with refined product futures both up more than a dime off of the multi-month lows we saw Wednesday morning. The DJIA broke 40,000 for the first time ever Thursday, and while it pulled back yesterday, US equity futures are suggesting the market will open north of that mark this morning, adding to the sends of optimism in the market.

Despite the bounce in the back half of the week, the weekly charts for both RBOB and ULSD are still painting a bearish outlook with a lower high and lower low set this week unless the early rally this morning can pick up steam in the afternoon. It does seem like the cycle of liquidation from hedge funds has ended however, so it would appear to be less likely that we’ll see another test of technical support near term after this bounce.

Ukraine hit another Russian refinery with a drone strike overnight, sparking a fire at Rosneft’s 240mb/day Tuapse facility on the black sea. That plant was one of the first to be struck by Ukrainian drones back in January and had just completed repairs from that strike in April. The attack was just one part of the largest drone attack to date on Russian energy infrastructure overnight, with more than 100 drones targeting power plants, fuel terminals and two different ports on the Black Sea. I guess that means Ukraine continues to politely ignore the White House request to stop blowing up energy infrastructure in Russia.

Elsewhere in the world where lots of things are being blown up: Several reports of a drone attack in Israel’s largest refining complex (just under 200kbd) made the rounds Thursday, although it remains unclear how much of that is propaganda by the attackers and if any impact was made on production.

The LA market had 2 different refinery upsets Thursday. Marathon reported an upset at the Carson section of its Los Angeles refinery in the morning (the Carson facility was combined with the Wilmington refinery in 2019 and now reports as a single unit to the state, but separately to the AQMD) and Chevron noted a “planned” flaring event Thursday afternoon. Diesel basis values in the region jumped 6 cents during the day. Chicago diesel basis also staged a recovery rally after differentials dropped past a 30 cent discount to futures earlier in the week, pushing wholesale values briefly below $2.10/gallon.

So far there haven’t been any reports of refinery disruptions from the severe weather than swept across the Houston area Thursday. Valero did report a weather-related upset at its Mckee refinery in the TX panhandle, although it appears they avoided having to take any units offline due to that event.

The Panama Canal Authority announced it was increasing its daily ship transit level to 31 from 24 as water levels in the region have recovered following more than a year of restrictions. That’s still lower than the 39 ships/day rate at the peak in 2021, but far better than the low of 18 ships per day that choked transit last year.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, May 16 2024

Energy Prices Found A Temporary Floor After Hitting New Multi-Month Lows Wednesday

Energy prices found a temporary floor after hitting new multi-month lows Wednesday morning as a rally to record highs in US equity markets and a modestly bullish DOE report both seemed to encourage buyers to step back into the ring.

RBOB and ULSD futures both bounced more than 6 cents off of their morning lows, following a CPI report that eased inflation fears and boosted hopes for the stock market’s obsession of the FED cutting interest rates. Even though the correlation between energy prices and equities and currencies has been weak lately, the spillover effect on the bidding was clear from the timing of the moves Wednesday.

The DOE’s weekly report seemed to add to the optimism seen in equity markets as healthy increases in the government’s demand estimates kept product inventories from building despite increased refinery runs.

PADD 3 diesel stocks dropped after large increases in each of the past 3 weeks pushed inventories from the low end of their seasonal range to average levels. PADD 2 inventories remain well above average which helps explain the slump in mid-continent basis values over the past week. Diesel demand showed a nice recovery on the week and would actually be above the 5 year average if the 5% or so of US consumption that’s transitioned to RD was included in these figures.

Gasoline inventories are following typical seasonal patterns except on the West Coast where a surge in imports helped inventories recover for a 3rd straight week following April’s big basis rally.

Refiners for the most part are also following the seasonal script, ramping up output as we approach the peak driving demand season which unofficially kicks off in 10 days. PADD 2 refiners didn’t seem to be learning any lessons from last year’s basis collapse and rapidly increased run rates last week, which is another contributor to the weakness in midwestern cash markets. One difference this year for PADD 2 refiners is the new Transmountain pipeline system has eroded some of their buying advantage for Canadian crude grades, although those spreads so far haven’t shrunk as much as some had feared.

Meanwhile, wildfires are threatening Canada’s largest oil sands hub Ft. McMurray Alberta, and more than 6,000 people have been forced to evacuate the area. So far no production disruptions have been reported, but you may recall that fires in this region shut in more than 1 million barrels/day of production in 2016, which helped oil prices recover from their slump below $30/barrel.

California’s Air Resources Board announced it was indefinitely delaying its latest California Carbon Allowance (CCA) auction – in the middle of the auction - due to technical difficulties, with no word yet from the agency when bidders’ security payments will be returned, which is pretty much a nice microcosm for the entire Cap & Trade program those credits enable.

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