Natural Gas Prices Spike Around The World

Market TalkFriday, Sep 24 2021
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Diesel prices reached a new 3 year high overnight, and the rest of the energy complex has wiped out the heavy losses we saw Monday, as concerns of Chinese contagion have been replaced by fears of fuel shortages. 

One relatively rare factor helping spur diesel prices higher: natural gas prices are spiking around the world, even before we get to winter, in what could create a very bullish scenario for supplemental electricity sources if we get a severe cold snap. Don’t forget that roughly 1 million barrels/day of refining capacity (~ 5% of the US total) was taken offline permanently last year due to weak economic conditions, and a negative long term outlook for the industry.  Those closures/conversion reduce the buffer for the supply network to absorb a disruption, and 2 more gulf coast refineries with a combined capacity north of 500,000 barrels/day are expected to be offline for several more months after Hurricane Ida, leaving the system stretched more than it’s been since the big price rally of 2008. 

Hurricane Sam has been named in the Atlantic, and is expected to rapidly intensify to a category 3 or larger storm over the weekend. The storm is still given low odds of making landfall in the US, but there’s still a large amount of uncertainty on its path until it makes its turn north, and as we saw with Henri a month ago, just a few minor shifts to the west can make a huge difference in impact. The good news for fuel supply is it looks like refining country will dodge this storm, while those in the population centers along the East Coast will need to keep an eye on this system next week.

Thursday was another volatile day in the RIN markets, as prices continued to plunge in early trading, only to bounce later in the day as doubts about the validity of the leaked RVO volumes were circulated. 

Think the driver shortage is bad here? It appears to be worse elsewhere as BP has announced restrictions on deliveries and temporary closures at some of its stations in the UK due to the lack of drivers. As we know all too well on this side of the pond, it’s not just fuel stations that are feeling the pinch, with the Christmas shopping season promising to create more headaches for industries far and wide.

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Market Update 9.24.21

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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