Diesel Prices Fell Out Of Bed Wednesday Dropping More Than 20 Cents At One Point To A 5 Week Low

Market TalkWednesday, Sep 14 2022
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Diesel prices fell out of bed Wednesday dropping more than 20 cents at one point to a 5 week low, even as gasoline and crude prices hold around break even for the day. There’s not a clear reason for the big drop in diesel while WTI and RBOB are neutral, but it appears that recession/demand fears may outweigh supply fears as fuel inventories in the US and abroad show signs of recovery.

US stock markets had their worst day in more than 2 years Tuesday following a discouraging inflation report that doomed hopes of the FED easing up on their plans to raise interest rates and tighten the money supply anytime soon. Diesel prices have had a negative correlation to the S&P 500 in recent months, so it doesn’t seem there’s an immediate connection between the selling in the asset classes, but there’s no denying that a recession would take a heavy toll on distillate demand.

A report by a major US investment bank suggested that European natural gas prices would be cut in half this winter as widespread efforts to solve the Russian energy shortages are proving successful.  If that prediction plays out, it suggests a lower need to switch to diesel fuel as a supplemental option for electricity generation.

Ethanol prices have surged this week, alongside corn prices following a bullish crop report from the USDA.  Another factor to watch closely in ethanol markets is a looming railroad strike that could hamper the primary transportation method for numerous commodities, including grain alcohol that goes into your fuel tank. The gasoline price vs Ethanol, both gross and net of RIN values, has fallen to its lowest level of the year as gasoline prices have come under pressure while ethanol rebounds.

The potential railroad strike would be a double-edged sword for diesel prices, both reducing the 2nd largest demand source for diesel, while also putting a key supplemental supply source at risk for markets that can’t be fully stocked by pipeline or waterborne options. There is a possibility that some of today’s action in ULSD futures could be related to major railroads unwinding fuel hedges if they now anticipate their actual consumption to be below expected levels, but there’s no way to prove whether or not that’s happening. 

The API reported a large build in US commercial crude oil stocks of 6 million barrels last week, but since the SPR was drawn down by more than 8 million barrels, the total oil inventories in the US actually fell again during the week. Distillates increased by 1.7 million barrels while gasoline stocks declined by 3.2 million barrels, which looks like it’s contributing to the big price disparity between products this morning. The EIA’s weekly report is due out at its normal time this morning.

The NHC gives a 70% chance that we’ll see another named storm in the Atlantic this weekend, which would be named Fiona. Most early models show this system turning north and east and avoiding a US Landfall, but a few still leave the door open for this storm to get into the Gulf of Mexico and threaten oil production and refineries, so it can’t be dismissed completely yet. 

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Market Talk Update 09.14.22

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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.

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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.

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkWednesday, Jul 17 2024

Week 28 - US DOE Inventory Recap