Energy And Equity Markets Limp To Finish Line

Market TalkThursday, Dec 31 2020
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Energy and equity markets are limping to the finish line with minor losses in the early going to end this long strange year.  The table below highlights the dramatic swings, and very different outcomes for some of the most watched commodity, equity and currency contracts. 

Today is expiration day for the January (21) ULSD and RBOB contracts so watch the February contracts for price direction today, and note that most rack prices published tonight should carry through the long weekend since markets are closed tomorrow. 

It’s been a brutal year for many, and the energy industry has certainly taken its lumps. Record setting amounts of debt were subject to bankruptcy filings in the oil patch, but things have arguably been worse for refiners as crack spreads have only made minor improvements compared to the recovery in oil prices, and the industry saw the most permanent closures announced in more than 30 years as a result. 

The pace and scale of demand recovery will be the big underlying story for 2021, as the world races to distribute vaccines and get people back to a more normal existence, while a new and more potent strain of COVID threatens to derail that progress. There will be plenty of theories about how the new administration in Washington will change the landscape for several industries – ours being one of the most noteworthy – but unless the Senate is flipped in the January runoff, it seems like major legal changes are unlikely in the near term.   

The Crescendo of emission reduction plans is likely to continue to build in 2021 as more big oil and refining companies lay out plans to reduce their pollution levels during the long slow transition away from fossil fuels. The Dallas Fed issued a special report this week taking a look at what the industry is doing to battle climate change, and highlighting pipeline capacity as one of the keys to reducing emissions near term.   Renewable diesel is becoming the poster child for a way forward for motor fuels to have a legitimate renewable option near term as ethanol and biodiesel have already pushed the limits of their usefulness.  The EIA is ending the year by highlighting the progress made on the renewable front as US consumption of those products surpassed coal in 2019 for the first time in 130 years.

3 more drilling rigs were put to work last week, marking the 12th increase in 14 weeks. According to the Baker Hughes report, we started the year with 877 rigs drilling for oil on land in the US, which ended up being the highest count of the year. That number hit a record low in August at 172, before starting a slow and steady recovery over the past 3 months as prices got back to more survivable levels and operators faced hard decisions on whether to drill or risk giving up leases in some cases.

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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.

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

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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
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Week 28 - US DOE Inventory Recap