Energy Markets Rally Again Thursday After A Choppy Wednesday Session

Market TalkThursday, Apr 25 2024
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Energy markets are trying to rally again Thursday after a choppy Wednesday session. RBOB gasoline futures are leading the push higher, on pace for a 3rd consecutive day of gains after finding a temporary floor Tuesday and have added 12 cents from those lows.

Equity markets are pointing sharply lower after a weak Q1 GDP estimate which seems to have contributed to a pullback in product prices over the past few minutes, but don’t be surprised if the “bad news is good news” low interest rate junkies start jumping in later on.

The DOE’s weekly report showed sluggish demand for gasoline and diesel, but inventory levels in most markets continue to follow their typical seasonal trends. Refinery runs held fairly steady last week with crude inputs down slightly but total gross throughputs up slightly as most facilities are now back online from a busy spring maintenance season and geared up for peak demand this summer.

Propane and propylene exports spiked to a record high north of 2.3 million barrels/day last week, which demonstrates both the US’s growing influence on global product markets, and the steady shift towards “other” products besides traditional gasoline and diesel in the level of importance for refiners.

The EIA acknowledged this morning that its weak diesel consumption estimates reflected the switch to Renewable Diesel on the West Coast, although they did not provide any timeline for when that data will be included in the weekly survey. The agency acknowledged that more than 4% of the total US consumption is now a combination of RD and Biodiesel, and that number is expected to continue to grow this year. This morning’s note also suggested that weak manufacturing activity was to blame for the sluggish diesel demand across the US, while other reports suggest the freight recession continued through Q1 of this year, which is also contributing to the big shift from tight diesel markets to oversupplied in several regions.

Valero kicked off the Q1 earnings releases for refiners with solid net income of $1.2 billion that’s a far cry from the spectacular earnings north of $3 billion in the first quarter of 2023. The refining sector made $1.7 billion, down from $4.1 billion last year. That is a pattern that should be expected from other refiners as well as the industry returns to a more normal market after 2 unbelievable years. You wouldn’t guess it by looking at stock prices for refiners though, as they continue to trade near record highs despite the more modest earnings.

Another pattern we’re likely to see continue with other refiners is that Renewable earnings were down, despite a big increase in production as lower subsidies like RINs and LCFS credit values sting producers that rely on those to compete with traditional products. Valero’s SAF conversion project at its Diamond Green joint venture is progressing ahead of schedule and will give the company optionality to flip between RD and SAF depending on how the economics of those two products shakes out this year. Valero also shows part of why refiners continue to disappear in California, with operating expenses for its West Coast segment nearly 2X that of the other regions it operates in.

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

Market Update 4.25.24

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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.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkWednesday, Jul 17 2024

Week 28 - US DOE Inventory Recap