ULSD Futures Have Dropped Below $3 For The First Time Since March This Week

Market TalkTuesday, Dec 6 2022
Pivotal Week For Price Action

ULSD Futures have dropped below $3 for the first time since March this week, and wholesale diesel prices are dropping to their lowest levels of the year. RBOB gasoline futures touched a new low for 2022 at $2.1753 overnight, and most US spot markets are trading well below the $2 mark.  

The heavy losses in refined products seemed to follow reports that China would be cutting retail prices for fuel due to a lack of demand, which is just the latest sign of economic fallout from the world’s largest oil buyer.  For distillates in particular, warm winter weather across the East Coast is sapping demand for heating oil, just a few short weeks after so much concern that there wouldn’t be enough supply. There was also a technical component to the selling after chart support from the lows seen in September and November broke down. The next layer of chart support for diesel comes from the March lows that are less than 3 cents below current values, so we should find out soon if the bulls are ready to defend their ground. 

All major US cash markets outside of New York are seeing discounts of 20 cents or more for prompt gasoline and distillate supplies, which proves that US refiners were up to the task of ramping up output, but now they seem to be having a hard time finding enough transportation options to get that fuel to where it’s needed. Prices to acquire space on several major pipeline systems remain elevated, although they have cooled somewhat in the past two weeks.

Italy and the US have worked out terms to keep a refinery in Sicily operating after the Russian sanctions have started to kick in for real, which is a positive for Atlantic basin supplies. Those sanctions are causing long queues of tankers in Turkish waters, as the need for new insurance paperwork causes traffic to grind to a halt. 

RIN values have wiped out 4 months of gains in just a few trading sessions following the EPA’s proposal for bio-fuel blending obligations for the next few years. While RINs north of $1.50 are still quite high compared to the entire history of the RFS program, it seems the market believes the plans to allow electricity generation from biofuels to qualify for RINs to add more supply than the increased blending mandates will offset. 

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Market Talk Update 12.06.2022

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Mar 30 2023

Refined Products Are Moving Lower For A 2nd Day After Coming Under Heavy Selling Pressure In Wednesday’s Session

Refined products are moving lower for a 2nd day after coming under heavy selling pressure in Wednesday’s session. Rapidly increasing refinery runs and sluggish diesel demand both seemed to weigh heavily on product prices, while crude oil is still benefitting from the disruption of exports from Iraq. Prices remain range-bound, so expect more choppy back and forth action in the weeks ahead.

US oil inventories saw a large decline last week, despite another 13-million barrels of oil being found in the weekly adjustment figure, as imports dropped to a 2-year low, and refinery runs cranked up in most regions as many facilities return from spring maintenance.

The refining utilization percentage jumped to its highest level of the year but remains overstated since the new 250,000 barrels/day of output from Exxon’s Beaumont facility still isn’t being counted in the official capacity figures. If you’re shocked that the government report could have such a glaring omission, then you haven’t been paying attention to the Crude Adjustment figure this year, and the artificially inflated petroleum demand estimates that have come with it.

Speaking of which, we’re now just a couple of months away from WTI Midland crude oil being included in the Dated Brent index, and given the uncertainty in the US over what should be classified as oil vs condensate, expect some confusion once those barrels start being included in the international benchmark as well.  

Diesel demand continues to hover near the lowest levels we’ve seen for the first quarter in the past 20+ years, dropping sharply again last week after 2 straight weeks of increases had some markets hoping that the worst was behind us. Now that we’re moving out of the heating season, we’ll soon get more clarity on how on road and industrial demand is holding up on its own in the weekly figures that have been heavily influenced by the winter that wasn’t across large parts of the country.

Speaking of which, the EIA offered another mea culpa of sorts Wednesday by comparing its October Winter Fuels outlook to the current reality, which shows a huge reduction in heating demand vs expectations just 6-months ago.  

It’s not just domestic consumption of diesel that’s under pressure, exports have fallen below their 5-year average as buyers in South America are buying more Russian barrels, and European nations are getting more from new facilities in the Middle East.

Take a look at the spike in PADD 5 gasoline imports last week to get a feel for how the region may soon be forced to adjust to rapidly increasing refining capacity in Asia, while domestic facilities come under pressure

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
Market TalkWednesday, Mar 29 2023

Crude Oil Prices Are Trying To Lead Another Rally In Energy Futures This Morning

Crude oil prices are trying to lead another rally in energy futures this morning, while ULSD prices are resisting the pull higher. Stocks are pointed higher in the early going as no news is seen as good news in the banking crisis.

WTI prices have rallied by $10/barrel in the past 7 trading days, even with a $5 pullback last Thursday and Friday. The recovery puts WTI back in the top half of its March trading range but there’s still another $7 to go before the highs of the month are threatened. 

Yesterday’s API report seems to be aiding the continued strength in crude, with a 6 million barrel inventory decline estimated by the industry group last week. That report also showed a decline of 5.9 million barrels of gasoline which is consistent with the spring pattern of drawdowns as we move through the RVP transition, while distillates saw a build of 550k barrels. The DOE’s weekly report is due out at its normal time this morning. 

Diesel prices seems to be reacting both to the small build in inventories – which is yet another data point of the weak demand so far this year for distillates – and on the back of crumbling natural gas prices that settled at their lowest levels in 2.5 years yesterday and fell below $2/million BTU this morning. 

While diesel futures are soft, rack markets across the Southwestern US remain unusually tight, with spreads vs spot markets approaching $1/gallon in several cases as local refiners go through maintenance and pipeline capacity for resupply remains limited. The tightest supply in the region however remains the Phoenix CBG boutique gasoline grade which is going for $1.20/gallon over spots as several of the few refineries that can make that product are having to perform maintenance at the same time. 

French refinery strikes continue for a 4th week and are estimated to be keeping close to 1 million barrels/day of fuel production offline, which is roughly 90% of French capacity and almost 1% of total global capacity. That disruption is having numerous ripple effects on crude oil markets in the Atlantic basin, while the impact on refined product supplies and prices remains much more contained than it was when this happened just 5 months ago.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action