West Coast Gasoline Inventories Dropped Sharply Last Week And Are Now Holding Below Their 5-year Seasonal Range

Market TalkThursday, Dec 7 2023
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Energy futures are bouncing this morning as buyers are finally stepping in after RBOB futures touched a 2-year low Wednesday, while WTI and ULSD both hit their lowest levels in 5 months. There are headwinds both fundamentally and technically, but so far, the market isn’t acting like a collapse is imminent and as the table below shows this is right about the time when gasoline prices bottomed out the past two years.

Saudi Arabia and Russia released a joint statement this morning, following Vladimir Putin’s trip to the Kingdom, urging OPEC & friends to join their output cut agreement, which takes the risk of a price war that could send prices plunging (as we’ve seen twice in the past decade) off the table for now and seems to be contributing to WTI climbing back above the $70 mark and Brent getting back above $75. 

The DOE reported a healthy bounce back in fuel demand estimates after the annual Thanksgiving holiday hangover, but that wasn’t enough to prevent refined product inventories from continuing to build as refiners continue to return from maintenance and increase run rates. The builds in gasoline inventories particularly suggest it could be a tough winter for some refiners who are already having some challenges clearing their extra barrels. 

The exception on gasoline comes in PADD 5. West Coast gasoline inventories dropped sharply last week and are now holding below their 5-year seasonal range, which is dramatically lower than year-ago levels which set the top end of that range. Those tight stocks help explain why West Coast values are the most expensive in the country by a wide margin and leave little cushion to deal with unplanned maintenance which helps explain the jump in CARBOB basis values this week. 

On the diesel side of the barrel, the recent themes of tight supplies on the East Coast, ample supply in the Midwest and Gulf Coast, and a Wild Card on the west coast since we don’t see Renewable Diesel inventories in the weekly figures continues. Take a look at the PADD 2 gasoline and diesel charts below and it’s easy to understand why we’re seeing cash prices in both Group 3 and Chicago approaching multi-year lows with 20-30 cent discounts to futures becoming the rule rather than the exception.  

The market seemed to shrug off the drop in total US crude oil stocks, as Cushing OK stocks increased for a 7th straight week, and the decline was largely driven by the largest negative adjustment value on record, which went from a positive 1.2 million barrels/day last week to negative 1.4 million barrels/day this week. The EIA has done a lot of work trying to fix the bugs in its report system and to better define what exactly it’s reporting, but clearly there’s still more work to be done. 

Click here to download a PDF of today's TACenergy Market Talk, including all charts from the Weekly DOE Report.

Market Talk Update 12.07.2023

News & Views

View All
Market Talk Updates - Social Header
Market TalkFriday, Jul 19 2024

Summertime-Friday-Apathy Trade Influencing Energy Markets

Energy markets are treading water to start the day as the Summertime-Friday-Apathy trade seems to be influencing markets around the world in the early going. RBOB futures are trying for a 3rd straight day of gains to wipe out the losses we saw to start the week, while ULSD futures continue to look like the weak link, trading lower for a 2nd day and down nearly 3 cents for the week.

Bad to worse: Exxon’s Joliet refinery remains offline with reports that repairs may take through the end of the month. On top of that long delay in restoring power to the facility, ENT reported this morning that the facility has leaked hydrogen fluoride acid gas, which is a dangerous and controversial chemical used in alkylation units. Chicago basis values continue to rally because of the extended downtime, with RBOB differentials approaching a 50-cent premium to futures, which sets wholesale prices just below the $3 mark, while ULSD has gone from the weakest in the country a month ago to the strongest today. In a sign of how soft the diesel market is over most of the US, however, the premium commanded in a distressed market is still only 2 cents above prompt futures.

The 135mb Calcasieu Refinery near Lake Charles LA has been taken offline this morning after a nearby power substation went out, and early reports suggest repairs will take about a week. There is no word yet if that power substation issue has any impacts on the nearby Citgo Lake Charles or P66 Westlake refineries.

Two tanker ships collided and caught fire off the coast of Singapore this morning. One ship was a VLCC which is the largest tanker in the world capable of carrying around 2 million barrels. The other was a smaller ship carrying “only” 300,000 barrels (roughly 12 million gallons) of naphtha. The area is known for vessels in the “dark fleet” swapping products offshore to avoid sanctions, so a collision isn’t too surprising as the vessels regularly come alongside one another, and this shouldn’t disrupt other ships from transiting the area.

That’s (not) a surprise: European auditors have determined the bloc’s green hydrogen goals are unattainable despite billions of dollars of investment, and are based on “political will” rather than analysis. Also (not) surprising, the ambitious plans to build a “next-gen” hydrogen-powered refinery near Tulsa have been delayed.

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

Market Talk Updates - Social Header
Market TalkThursday, Jul 18 2024

Refined Products Stanch Bleeding Despite Inventory Builds And Demand Slump

Refined products are trading slightly lower to start Thursday after they stopped the bleeding in Wednesday’s session, bouncing more than 2 cents on the day for both RBOB and ULSD, despite healthy inventory builds reported by the DOE along with a large slump in gasoline demand.

Refinery runs are still above average across the board but were pulled in PADD 3 due to the short-term impacts of Beryl. The Gulf Coast region is still outpacing the previous two years and sitting at the top end of its 5-year range as refiners in the region play an interesting game of chicken with margins, betting that someone else’s facility will end up being forced to cut rates before theirs.

Speaking of which, Exxon Joliet was reportedly still offline for a 3rd straight day following weekend thunderstorms that disrupted power to the area. Chicago RBOB basis jumped by another dime during Wednesday’s session as a result of that downtime. Still, that move is fairly pedestrian (so far) in comparison to some of the wild swings we’ve come to expect from the Windy City. IIR via Reuters reports that the facility will be offline for a week.

LA CARBOB differentials are moving in the opposite direction meanwhile as some unlucky seller(s) appear to be stuck long and wrong as gasoline stocks in PADD 5 reach their highest level since February, and held above the 5-year seasonal range for a 4th consecutive week. The 30-cent discount to August RBOB marks the biggest discount to futures since 2022.

The EIA Wednesday also highlighted its forecast for rapid growth in “Other” biofuels production like SAF and Renewable Naptha and Propane, as those producers capable of making SAF instead of RD can add an additional $.75/gallon of federal credits when the Clean Fuels Producer’s Credit takes hold next year. The agency doesn’t break out the products between the various “Other” renewable fuels, but the total projected output of 50 mb/day would amount to roughly 2% of total Jet Fuel production if it was all turned to SAF, which of course it won’t as the other products come along for the ride similar to traditional refining processes.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action