November ULSD Has Taken Back Its Place As The Leader Of The Energy Rally

Market TalkThursday, Oct 27 2022
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Someone continues to think it’s a good idea to try and sell refined products in the overnight sessions, even though we’ve seen strong rallies wipe out those losses every day this week.  November ULSD has taken back its place as the leader of the energy rally, setting a new 4 month high for futures, and pushing the spread vs the December contract north of 50 cents/gallon this morning. RBOB is seeing a similar push higher, threatening to break the $3 mark and pushing it’s prompt/2nd month spread north of 33 cents/gallon this morning.   Those big moves in time spreads continue to wreak havoc on basis markets across the country as cash market traders deal with huge basis swings that are often doing nothing more than sliding down the steep backwardation curve.  

Two examples of this phenomenon from Wednesday: Group 3 ULSD dropped sharply and traded 40 cents below November ULSD, but still commanded a premium to the rallying USGC contract that’s trading at a 5 cent premium to December.  In LA we saw CARBOB basis values climb more than 40 cents on the day, but cash values still declined by a nickel for the day as that market rolled to a December reference month.

The best cure for high prices is high prices: Note the spike in West Coast (PADD 5) imports in the charts below from the DOE’s weekly report. That shows how the cargo market reacted to the big price premiums we saw in late September, and those barrels hitting the market then contributed to those prices crashing. Now that we’re seeing NY Harbor prices commanding the huge premiums in October, we should see imports into PADD 1 increase in the next few weeks although the Atlantic basin doesn’t seem to have the spare fuel the Pacific does owing to the chaos in Europe and refinery closures after a decade of Europe and the US East Coast having too much refining capacity.

PADD 1 refinery runs have ticked up to the 2nd highest weekly level since the PES refinery exploded and closed in 2019 as plants return from their fall maintenance and the facilities that had been limping along just trying to survive for the past few years are now finding themselves in the right place at the right time. Right on cue, PBF’s Q3 earnings showed the company made more than $1 billion during the quarter, nearly 18 times more than they made this time a year ago.  

On the other hand, not everything is rosy in refinery land as the largest remaining PADD 1 refiner has reportedly gone through a restructuring and laid off numerous employees across the country. We just witnessed strikes at refineries in France that shut down 4 facilities and contributed to the tight supplies in the US East Coast this month, as workers protested the companies making record earnings while the employees weren’t sharing in that success, and it wouldn’t be surprising if we saw similar reactions at some US facilities following this type of action.

Speaking of Atlantic basin refinery capacity, one detail of the upcoming European sanctions on Russian energy exports is an Italian refinery that could be forced to close due to its links to Russian-owned Lukoil, which would cut the country’s production capacity by 20%.  Germany recently took control of 3 refineries to avoid a similar problem, although it’s still unclear how those facilities will be supplied once the bans start in December.

That uncertainty of oil supply, along with the ongoing release of 1 million barrels/day from the SPR helped push US crude oil exports reached an all-time high last week with more than 5.1 million barrels (214 million gallons) of crude being sent abroad every day.  If that statement makes you want to jump on the export ban bandwagon, take a look at the chart of exports over the past 15 years, and compare oil prices today to the 2008-2013 time frame when crude oil exports were mostly illegal and prices were still regularly north of $100/barrel. 

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

Market Talk Update 10.27.2022

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Dec 1 2022

December Trading Is Kicking Off With Modest Gains For Energy Contracts

December trading is kicking off with modest gains for energy contracts after a strong finish to November helped the complex avoid a technical breakdown.  

Equity markets saw another big rally Wednesday after the FED chair suggested that smaller rate hikes were coming. The correlation between energy and equity markets remains weak, so it doesn’t seem like that’s having much influence on daily pricing, but it certainly doesn’t hurt the case for a recovery rally.  New reports that China may ease some lockdowns in the wake of last weekend’s protests is also getting some credit for the strength in prices after they reached 11 month lows on Monday.

The DOE’s weekly report had something for everyone with crude oil stocks showing some bullish figures while refined product supplies got some much-needed relief.

US Crude oil inventories saw a huge drop of more than 12 million barrels last week thanks to a surge in exports to the 3rd highest level on record, a drop in imports, and the SPR sales that have been supplementing commercial supplies for the past 6 months wind down. The market reaction was fairly muted to the big headline drop, which is probably due to the inconsistent nature of the import/export flows, which are likely to reverse course next week. The lack of SPR injections will be a key figure to watch through the winter, particularly as the Russian embargo starts next week.

Diesel inventories increases across all 5 PADDs last week, as demand dipped again and imports ticked higher. Diesel exports remain above average, and are expected to continue that pace in the near term as European and Latin American buyers continue to be short. Read this note for why in the long term more of those supplies will probably come from China or Kuwait

US refiners continue to run all-out, with total throughput last week reaching its highest level since the start of the pandemic, even though we’ve lost more than 600,000 barrels/day of capacity since then. Those high run rates at a time of soft demand help explain why we’re seeing big negative basis values at the refining hubs around the country and if the pipeline and vessel outlets can’t keep pace to move that product elsewhere we may see those refiners forced to cut back due to lack of storage options.

The EPA was required by court order to submit its plans for the renewable fuel standard by November 16, and then came to an agreement to release them on November 30, and then apparently decided to meet that deadline, but not release the plan to the public. If you think this is ridiculous, you’re not alone, but keep in mind this is the same agency that regularly missed the statutory deadline by more than a year previously, so it’s also not too surprising. This is also the law that required 16 billion gallons/year of cellulosic biofuels be blended by 2022 when it was put into place 15 years ago, only to run into a wall of physical reality where the country is still unable to produce even 1 billion gallons/year of that fuel. 

There are still expectations that the public may get to see the proposed rulings later this week, and reports that renewable electricity generation will be added to the mix for the first time ever starting next year. RIN prices were pulling back from the 18 month highs they reached leading up to the non-announcement as it seems the addition of “eRINs” will add new RIN supply, and potentially offset the increased biofuel mandates.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkWednesday, Nov 30 2022

Energy Markets Are Seeing A Strong Rally For A 2nd Day

Energy markets are seeing a strong rally for a 2nd day as uncertainty about the upcoming OPEC meeting and about the looming Russian oil embargo seem to have markets focusing on supply fears again, after weeks of demand-fears driving prices lower. Diesel prices are up more than 22 cents from yesterday’s low trade, while gasoline prices are up 12. The bounce puts the complex back in neutral technical territory after surviving a trip to the edge of a breakdown that could have sent prices sharply lower. 

Concerns about a pending recession continue to plague equity markets as the US Treasury yield curve is inverted to a degree we’ve only seen a couple of times in the past 25 years. As the chart below shows, these inversions have been a good indicator of a pending economic slowdown. Energy markets seem to already have gotten that selling out of their system in the short term, but this could once again become a factor if this latest rally runs out of steam. 

The European Union still can’t unite on a price cap agreement for Russian oil, less than a week before an embargo on Russian oil is set to begin. Both WTI and Brent crude have slipped into a Contango price curve near term as current supplies are proving ample as traders have had months to prepare for this change, and demand has softened globally. 

Meanwhile, Italian officials continue to race to find a way to keep their Sicilian refinery in operation after the embargo begins, asking the US to provide banks assurance that they won’t face fines for breaching sanctions given the Russian-owned status of that plant. Since the US is a consistent buyer of products from that facility, and the East Coast continues to struggle to find enough supply, perhaps it’s an offer they can’t refuse. 

OPEC and friends have decided to hold their upcoming meeting virtually, which some are taking as a sign that they will roll over their output cut agreement from October. 

The tornado outbreak in the southern US looks like it stayed far enough away from the Gulf Coast to spare the refineries in the area. The Alon refinery in Big Spring TX reported an operational issue that lasted more than 16 hours Monday, that ENT is reporting could end up causing extended downtime at that facility. While that plant is far from the Gulf Coast trading hub, downtime could add to the supply challenges to West Texas and surrounding markets.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkWednesday, Nov 30 2022

Week 48 - US DOE Inventory Recap