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Huge Draws In Refined Product Inventories

Wednesday, Mar 3 2021
Market Talk

The four-month-old bullish trend that’s nearly doubled prices for oil and refined products is coming under pressure this week, but so far buyers have been willing to step in each time the chart support is tested. We saw another attempted selloff overnight that pushed WTI below $60, only to see another recovery this morning. This is similar to the back and forth pattern we saw Tuesday morning, which turned into a wave of selling just before the close in the afternoon.    

If the bullish trend line finally breaks, we could easily see a $8-10 drop in oil prices and 20-25 cent drop in products over the next month in what could be considered nothing more than an ordinary correction of a major bull market move. If the trend holds however, there’s still a decent fundamental argument for products to rally above $2 this spring and for oil to test $70.

The API’s weekly report was said to show huge draws in refined product inventories last week, as demand recovered faster from the Polar plunge than refineries. Both gasoline and diesel inventories were estimated to be down by more than 9 million barrels/day according to the reports, while crude supplies increased by more than seven million barrels as plants were struggling to restart their processing units. The DOE’s weekly report will be out at its normal time this morning.

Those inventory drawdowns are tangible in markets across the South West and Mid Continent regions, with basis values and rack spreads continuing to spike in several markets this week, with Group 3 ULSD continuing to find itself in the most unusual position as the most expensive diesel in the country, trading at a 20+ cent premium to futures this week. (Charts below) The near term supply situation is getting worse across parts of Texas and the Southwest as refiners continue to struggle with lingering damage that’s slowing restart attempts, and short term outages continue to pop up in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

For the most part, outages have been limited to diesel and premium gasoline, while regular grades are benefitting from the temporary RVP waivers and relative ease of production they bring. Coastal markets don’t seem to be feeling the squeeze, even though allocations are still not as wide-open as they might normally be this time of year. One thing to watch out for in the coming weeks is premium gasoline supply, which often runs out during the RVP transition given its relatively low demand, and promises to be even more of a challenge this year with refinery output slipping.

RIN prices reached their highest levels since 2013 in Tuesday’s session on the back of stronger grain prices, and expectations for stricter standards to come from the new administration.   

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce introduced a new bill that intends to set the U.S. on a path towards zero emissions by 2050, in accordance with the Paris climate agreement. The thousand-plus page bill covers a wide variety of topics, and essentially all sectors of the energy industry, including some tweaks to the RFS. Grant programs to fund various waste-to-fuel programs will be a key topic as the race to produce renewables is setting up a feedstock shortage in the coming years. The bill also includes provisions that refineries requesting exemptions from the Renewable Fuel Standard must share their information publicly. 

Meanwhile, the API is reportedly preparing a statement to endorse setting carbon emissions pricing as a way to set a viable economic path towards reaching the Paris agreement. Needless to say, the oil industry group’s plan is expected to look quite a bit different than the one being floated in the House.

OPEC & Friends hold their official meeting tomorrow, so expect the rumor mill to be cranked up over the next 24 hours and keep the oil & product markets on edge. 

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

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