Gasoline Futures Plunge, Saudi-Russo Discord Dampens Rally

Market TalkThursday, May 25 2023
Pivotal Week For Price Action

So much for the Memorial Day rally? Gasoline futures are dropping nearly 7 cents/gallon in the early going this morning, leading the energy complex lower, and wiping out the strong gains we saw Wednesday. Diesel prices are down 4 cents so far and are now just a penny away from wiping out their gains for the week. Prices did recover some of their early losses following the Q1 GDP estimate that came in slightly above earlier guesses, and showed the US economy continues to see modest growth despite all of the recession warnings. 

A day after the Saudi Oil minister threatened speculators shorting oil prices, a Russian official downplayed the chances of OPEC & friends agreeing to another output cut at its meeting next week, which seems to have sent some of the bullish bandwagon jumpers back to the sidelines. 

The DOE reported a surge in the estimated demand for gasoline and diesel last week, which pushed inventories to new lows for the year, with gasoline stocks now at their lowest seasonal level in more than 6 years. While the weekly demand estimates are notoriously volatile (aka unreliable) the diesel reading touched its 2nd highest level of the year and offered hope for producers who have been languishing under some of the worst seasonal consumption that we’ve seen in decades.

What a difference a year makes: This time last year distillate cracks were spiking north of $70/barrel, some $25/barrel more than gasoline, incenting refiners to maximize diesel output. This year, gasoline cracks are rallying to a 10-month high and are trading $8/barrel over diesel values. The forward curve still favors diesel output long term and shows profitable run-rates for refiners for the next 2 years, albeit at much more modest levels than the records we’ve seen set over the prior 12 months.

Oil inventories saw a huge decline of more than 12 million barrels last week, despite another SPR release of 1.5 million barrels. The EIA’s adjustment factor was at play again, with a reduction in the fudge factor accounting for 8 million barrels of the drop, while a big decrease in imports accounted for another 7-million-barrel decline last week, while exports held strong north of 4-million barrels/day.

Refinery runs ticked slightly higher for a 2nd week, and continue to hold near year-ago levels, and should continue to ramp up as a busy spring maintenance season comes to an end. The main impediment to seeing refiners reach maximum run rates in June appears to be the rash of fires that have been breaking out lately. It’s not just US refiners that are struggling with fires, multiple refineries in Mexico have had multiple issues in the past week, further complicating the issues we saw back in February when 3 fires broke out on the same day.  

Game change or pipe dream? Plans to build a 250mb/day oil refinery near the WTI delivery hub in Cushing OK were announced this week, with the facility claiming to operate on Hydrogen and Oxygen fuel sources that managers claim will reduce emissions by 95%. IF the project moves forward, construction is scheduled to start in 2024, with the first potential for supply starting in 2027.

The US Treasury published a progress report on the Russian Oil price cap last week, taking a page out of the DOE’s SPR playbook and patting itself on the back for a job well done. A Bloomberg article this morning details how India and China are the main beneficiaries of that plan. 

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

Market Talk Update 05.25.2023

News & Views

View All
Market Talk Updates - Social Header
Market TalkFriday, Jun 2 2023

Energy Prices Up Over 2% Across The Board This Morning

Refined product futures traded in an 8-10 cent range yesterday with prompt heating oil settling up ~6 cents and RBOB ending up about flat. Oil prices clawed back some of the losses taken in the first two full trading days of the week, putting the price per barrel for US crude back over the $70 mark. Prices are up just over 2% across the board this morning, signifying confidence after the Senate passed the bipartisan debt ceiling bill last night.

The EIA reported crude oil inventories up 4.5 million barrels last week, aided by above-average imports, weakened demand, and a sizeable increase to their adjustment factor. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve continues to release weekly through June and the 355 million barrels remaining in the SPR is now at a low not seen since September 1983. Exports increased again on the week and continue to run well above last year’s record-setting levels through the front half of the year. Refinery runs and utilization rates have increased to their highest points this year, both sitting just above year-ago rates.

Diesel stocks continue to hover around the low end of the 5-year range set in 2022, reporting a build of about half of what yesterday’s API data showed. Most PADDs saw modest increases last week but all are sitting far below average levels. Distillate imports show 3 weeks of growth trending along the seasonal average line, while 3.7 million barrels leaving the US last week made it the largest increase in exports for the year. Gasoline inventories reported a small decline on the week, also being affected by the largest jump in exports this year, leaving it under the 5-year range for the 11th consecutive week. Demand for both products dwindled last week; however, gas is still comfortably above average despite the drop.

The sentiment surrounding OPEC+’s upcoming meeting is they’re not likely to extend oil supply cuts, despite prices falling early in the week. OPEC+ is responsible for a significant portion of global crude oil production and its policy decisions can have a major impact on prices. Some members of OPEC+ have voluntarily cut production since April due to a waning economic outlook, but the group is not expected to take further action next week.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Jun 1 2023

Prices Are Mixed This Morning As The Potential Halt In U.S. Interest Rate Hikes

Bearish headlines pushed refined products and crude futures down again yesterday. Prompt RBOB closed the month at $2.5599 and HO at $2.2596 with WTI dropping another $1.37 to $68.09 and Brent losing 88 cents. Prices are mixed this morning as the potential halt in U.S. interest rate hikes and the House passing of the US debt ceiling bill balanced the impact of rising inventories and mixed demand signals from China.

The American Petroleum Institute reported crude builds of 5.2 million barrels countering expectations of a draw. Likewise, refined product inventories missed expectations and were also reported to be up last week with gasoline adding 1.891 million barrels and diesel stocks rising 1.849 million barrels. The market briefly attempted a push higher but ultimately settled with losses following the reported supply increases implying weaker than anticipated demand. The EIA will publish its report at 10am this morning.

LyondellBasell announced plans yesterday to delay closing of their Houston refinery, originally scheduled to shut operations by the end of this year, through Q1 2025. The company “remains committed to ceasing operation of its oil refining business” but the 289,000 b/d facility remaining online longer than expected will likely have market watchers adjusting this capacity back into their balance estimates.

Side note: there is still an ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. Two oil refineries located east of Russia's major oil export terminals were targeted by drone attacks. The Afipsky refinery’s 37,000 b/d crude distillation unit was struck yesterday, igniting a massive fire that was later extinguished while the other facility avoided any damage. The attacks are part of a series of intensified drone strikes on Russian oil pipelines. Refineries in Russia have been frequently targeted by drones since the start of the military operation in Ukraine in February 2022.

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Jun 1 2023

Week 22 - US DOE Inventory Recap