Rallying Distillate Futures Push Energy Complex Higher

Market TalkMonday, Jan 23 2023
Pivotal Week For Price Action

The rally marches on to start a new week with refined products up 3 cents so far on the day, reaching their highest levels since mid-November. Both fundamental and technical indicators suggest this rally may have more room to run, as more refinery issues crop up in the US and Europe, and prices have broken through their near term resistance on the charts.

Diesel prices are up 58 cents from their January 4th lows, following the largest selloff to start a year in 3 decades with nearly 3 weeks of strong gains. This also puts distillate prices nearly 75 cents higher than they were at their December lows, and the charts suggest there’s plenty of room to move higher still with a run at $3.70 or even $4 looking likely in the next several weeks.  

The gasoline price rally isn’t quite as impressive, with RBOB futures “only” rising 43 cents off of their January lows, and 64 cents since bottoming out in December. Considering that we’re just moving through the worst few weeks of the whole year for gasoline demand however, that rally is still an impressive feat, leaving the door open for a run at $2.80 or $3 over the next month. While the charts are now favoring higher prices, numerous technical indicators are flashing “overbought” status, meaning a sharp pullback is to be expected along the way and could happen this week. As long as the upward trend-lines aren’t broken, that pullback should be a decent buying opportunity.   

The squeeze is on. Money managers made substantial increases in the net length held in energy contracts last week, driven in large part by a big reduction in short positions for WTI and Brent as the price rally marched on. In total, more than 45,000 short contracts were covered as the big speculators that had been betting on lower prices threw in the towel.  For Brent, speculative length has reached a 4 month high, and will hit a year high next week if the recent upward trend can hold. 

We have seen large increases in open interest so far in 2023 as lower volatility seems to be encouraging some traders to dip their toes back in the water, but the overall positions remain low compared to the past 5-7 years.

Baker Hughes reported a large decline in oil rigs last week, with the total US count dropping by 10, bringing it to a 2 month low at 613. Natural gas rigs meanwhile saw a large increase of 6 on the week, bringing that weekly total to 156. Given the long lead times needed to get enough people, equipment, and sometimes funding in place for a drilling rig, it seems the current drop in oil rigs may be a reflection of the market pessimism 2 months ago when WTI traded down to the $70 mark, or it could be a sign of shifting to favor natural gas production as the world was expecting a harsh winter heating season that simply has not yet materialized.

A fire broke out at the PBF refinery outside of New Orleans Saturday, but was quickly extinguished without any injuries. So far there are no reports on whether or not operations have been curtailed following that fire. 

Today’s interesting read from the WSJ: A debate over whether or not blending more biofuels will benefit the environment. 

Protesting unions in France are threatening to cut off electricity supplies and shut down refineries, as the country continues to struggle with either making people work 2 more years before getting their state pension or going bankrupt.  Those protests continue to offer a reason for buyers to bid up refined product futures as the Atlantic basin is stretched thin for refinery output already.

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Market Talk Update 01.23.2023

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkFriday, Jun 21 2024

Charts Continue To Suggest We’re In For A Period Of Sideways Trading

It’s another quiet start for energy markets that seem to have entered the summer doldrums where peak gasoline demand for the year meets peak disinterest as many in the industry start taking vacations. Charts continue to suggest we’re in for a period of sideways trading now that the big June recovery bounce seems to have run out of steam.

Tropical storm Alberto dissipated over Mexico Thursday, but not before its far-stretching thunderstorms upset another refinery in the Corpus Christi area. Flint Hills reported a boiler was knocked offline at its East Corpus refinery, a day after Citgo reported an upset at its East facility as well. Large parts of Texas have been swimming in supply most of the year as neighboring markets to the North and West have been long, backing up barrels into the Lonestar state so these small upsets are unlikely to move the needle in terms of prices or allocations in the area, but they are a good reminder of how vulnerable these facilities are to the weather. The NHC is still tracking 2 more systems with coin-flip odds of being named in the next few days, but neither one looks like it’s headed for the oil production and refining zones in the Gulf Coast at this point.

Ukraine continues to pound Russian energy infrastructure, with 4 different refineries reportedly struck overnight, following attacks on multiple export facilities earlier in the week. The global market continues to largely shrug off the attacks, as excess refining capacity in Asia seems more than capable of picking up any slack in the supply network that may be caused by a loss in Russian output, which is a very stark contrast to what we were experiencing 2 years ago.

Another dip in capacity: The EIA reported a drop of 103mb/day of refining capacity in the US last week, the first reduction in capacity reported since before Russia invaded Ukraine. A general drop in capacity came as no surprise as the conversion of the P66 Rodeo refinery in the San Francisco Bay area earlier this year was well documented. The surprise in the figures was that the East Coast made up 40% of the total decline, which may suggest those facilities which are generally disadvantaged due to labor costs and limitations in crude oil sourcing, are once again knocking on death’s door after a 2-year reprieve.

With the conversion of Rodeo, PADD 5 now has the least amount of refining capacity since the EIA started tracking that stat 40 years ago. Right on cue, the DOE also reported PADD 5 gasoline imports surged to the highest level in over 3 years last week, offering a glimpse of what lays ahead as the region will now be more dependent on shipments from across the Pacific to meet local demand.

Speaking of which, lobbying groups are filing responses to California Energy’s workshop proposals on new refinery rules to cap profits, using the forum to tout the advantages of whatever product they’re selling, and highlighting the risks of the state making itself a fuel island dependent on imports from overseas.

Another one bites the dust? BP “is pressing pause” on its biofuel project at its Cherry Point WA refinery this week, the latest in a line of biofuel producers to rethink plans to make diesel from soybeans and waste oils as subsidies have plunged. On top of plummeting LCFS and RIN values that have cut nearly $2/gallon out of the credit values of the fuel that costs $3-$4/gallon more than traditional diesel, the new Clean Fuel Production Credit is replacing the $1/gallon Blender’s Tax credit that’s been the lifeline to many producers over the past decade. The new program (which is part of the Inflation “Reduction” Act) sets a higher bar to clear before producers can get their handout, which means some domestic facilities will see another loss in credit values from 50-80 cents/gallon vs the BTC, while importers won’t qualify for any credit under the new program.

For real this time? Mexican officials continue to make up stories about when their new Dos Bocas refinery will begin producing fuels, kicking the can further down the road this week saying the facility will start up in the back half of the year. This is at least the 10th time officials have moved back the start date of the facility over the past few years and given that the back half of the year starts in 10 days, I’ll take the over on this bet. Refiners along the US Gulf Coast are no doubt celebrating anytime another delay is announced as they’re facing more competition than they have in the past two decades for their exports.

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 TalkThursday, Jun 20 2024

Week 24 - US DOE Inventory Recap

Market Talk Updates - Social Header
Market TalkThursday, Jun 20 2024

Energy Futures Giving Back Yesterday's Holiday Shortened Session Gains

Energy futures are giving back almost all of the gains made during yesterday’s holiday-shortened session as a search for direction begins to emerge after crude oil and diesel prices reached 7-week highs. Charts suggest we may be in for a few weeks of sideways trading unless buyers can push prices up another 5-10 cents before the month's end.

A reminder that since futures didn’t settle yesterday, the price change you’re seeing today is relative to Tuesday’s close. Spot markets weren’t assessed yesterday. The DOE’s weekly status report will be released at 11 am Eastern.

Tropical storm Alberto was finally named Wednesday after a couple of days of a “potential tropical cyclone” label. While the storm is already moving inland over Mexico, it is having widespread impacts with parts of Texas already declaring states of emergency to deal with flooding.

Yesterday we mentioned that the heavy rains brought by this system may interfere with restart efforts at Citgo’s Corpus Christi West refinery, but it was actually their East Corpus Christi plant that reported flaring due to the “heavy rainfall event.” No units were reported to be shut from that upset, and if the refiners in the area can make it another 12 hours, they’ll have dodged their first storm bullet of the year.

Although the forecasts all said this would be an extremely busy year for storms, Alberto was actually the latest named storm in the Atlantic basin for a season in 10 years. Don’t worry though, it looks like we’ll quickly make up for lost time with two more systems being tracked. One on Alberto’s heels is given 50% odds of being named as it moves into the Gulf of Mexico this weekend, while the other lingering off the SE coast is only given 40% odds, but is still set to bring heavy rain to Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

The treasury and IRS published guidance on the Prevailing Wage and Apprenticeship (PWA) requirements for renewable fuel facilities to qualify for the new Clean Fuel Production Credit (CFPC) that will replace the blanket $1/gallon Blender’s Tax Credit next year. Without reaching the PWA standards, producers can get a maximum of $.20/gallon for Biodiesel and RD, and $.35/gallon for SAF. If a producer meets the PWA guidelines, they can theoretically earn 5 times the base amount, for a maximum of $1/gallon for RD and Bio and $1.75 for SAF. The actual amount will be calculated by multiplying the maximum credit times the fuel’s emissions factor, meaning many producers will earn much less than the current $1/gallon credit. It’s also worth noting again that importers will not qualify for the CFPC after many years of earning the BTC, which may shake up the supply outlook later this year as anyone who can, will race to dump their barrels into a US market before the credit goes away.

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