Refined Products Continue To Push Higher

Market TalkWednesday, Feb 17 2021
Late Rally Pushes Prices Into The Green

Refined products continue to push higher this morning, reaching new pre-COVID highs as the country deals with perhaps the largest single refinery disruption event in history. Roughly 1/3 of all U.S. refining capacity has been disrupted to some degree, with most of the plants in the list below being forced to shut units or cut back run rates by a brutal combination of pipe-bursting cold and a lack of steady power, with more storms hitting large parts of the country today. 

When all is said and done, it appears this event will have impacted more U.S. refineries than any other single event, but the price reaction remains relatively minor compared to storms like Katrina (2005) or Ike (2008) for a variety of reasons, most notably that the plants are largely expected to begin restarting in the next 24 - 48 hours with minimal long term damage. For comparison, in the wake of Katrina and Ike, we saw some spot markets trade up by $1 -$2/gallon, and this time around (so far anyway) we’re still talking about 10 - 20 cent increases. We’re also already working in a reduced demand environment, and we’ve seen consumption plummet further so far this week, which should help limit the disruption coming from the supply side of the equation. 

In addition to the rally in futures, most cash markets are seeing stronger basis values as buyers try to find available barrels to replace those that are lost. The buying is unusually widespread from coast to coast, to coast as the country’s refining hub is temporarily crippled. Supplemental barrels for some Southwest markets will have to come from California, East Coast markets will lean more heavily on resupply from Europe, and the Midwest may just have to fend for itself for a while, which usually isn’t too hard to do this time of year.

Colonial pipeline continues to operate, but some shipments appear to be delayed as the availability of product and power to push it up the line are both suspect in the lines largest origin points. So far we’re still talking about tight allocations in the markets fed by that line, not complete terminal outages, which would be likely if its main lines are forced to close.  Explorer pipeline was forced to delay restart of its main line that runs from Houston, through DFW, to several Midwestern markets due to the latest round of ice & snow.

It’s not just physical lines that are being impacted by this event, with so much of the industry headquartered in Houston, the power outages in that city are creating headaches across the country on a transactional level as some servers that drive business operations are struggling, as are the employees who rely on them.

The weekly DOE inventory report is delayed due to the President’s Day holiday, and will be largely ignored anyway as the data was compiled before the polar plunge dramatically changed the refining landscape.

Today’s interesting non-weather-related read: The case of the missing Oil

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

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkFriday, Sep 22 2023

Energy Markets Are Ticking Modestly Higher This Morning But Remain Well Off The Highs Set Early Thursday

Energy markets are ticking modestly higher this morning but remain well off the highs set early Thursday following the reports that Russia was temporarily banning most refined product exports.  

The law of government intervention and unintended consequences: Russian officials claim the export ban is an effort to promote market stability, and right on cue, its gasoline prices plummeted a not-so-stable 10% following the news. 

There’s a saying that bull markets don’t end due to bad news, they end when the market stops rallying on good news. It’s possible that if ULSD futures continue lower after failing to sustain yesterday’s rally, or this morning’s, we could be seeing the end of the most recent bull run. That said, it’s still much too soon to call the top here, particularly with a steepening forward curve leaving prices susceptible to a squeeze, and the winter-demand months still ahead of us. Short term we need to see ULSD hold above $3.30 next week to avoid breaking its weekly trend line.

The sell-off in RIN values picked up steam Thursday, with 2023 D4 and D6 values dropping to the $1.02 range before finally finding a bid later in the session and ending the day around $1.07.   

Tropical Storm Ophelia is expected to be named today, before making landfall on the North Carolina coast tomorrow. This isn’t a major storm, and there aren’t any refineries in its path, so it’s unlikely to do much to disrupt supply, but it will dump heavy rain several of the major East Coast markets so it will likely hamper demand through the weekend. The other storm system being tracked by the NHC is now given 90% odds of being named next week, but its predicted path has shifted north as it moves across the Atlantic, which suggests it is more likely to stay out to sea like Nigel did than threaten either the Gulf or East Coasts.

Exxon reported an upset at its Baytown refinery that’s been ongoing for the past 24 hours.  It’s still unclear which units are impacted by this event, and whether or not it will have meaningful impacts on output. Total’s Pt Arthur facility also reported an upset yesterday, but that event lasted less than 90 minutes. Like most upsets in the region recently, traders seem to be shrugging off the news with gulf coast basis values not moving much. 

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Sep 21 2023

The Yo-Yo Action In Diesel Continues With Each Day Alternating Between Big Gains And Big Losses So Far This Week

The yo-yo action in diesel continues with each day alternating between big gains and big losses so far this week. Today’s 11-cent rally is being blamed on reports that Russia is cutting exports of refined products effective immediately. It’s been a while since Russian sabre rattling has driven a noticeable price move in energy futures, after being a common occurrence at the start of the war. Just like tweets from our prior President however, these types of announcements seem to have a diminishing shelf-life, particularly given how the industry has adapted to the change in Russian export flows, so don’t be surprised if the early rally loses steam later today. 

The announcement also helped gasoline prices rally 5-cents off of their overnight lows, and cling to modest gains just above a penny in the early going. Before the announcement, RBOB futures were poised for a 5th straight day of losses.

IF the export ban lasts, that would be good news for US refiners that have seen their buyers in south American countries – most notably Brazil – reduce their purchases in favor of discounted barrels from Russia this year

US refinery runs dropped below year-ago levels for the first time in 6 weeks, with PADDS 1, 2 and 3 all seeing large declines at the start of a busy fall maintenance schedule.  Oil inventories continued to decline, despite the drop-in run rates and a big increase in the adjustment factor as oil exports surged back north of 5 million barrels/day. Keep in mind that as recently as 2011 the US only produced 5 million barrels of oil every day, and exports were mostly banned until 2016, so to be sending this many barrels overseas is truly a game changer for the global market.

Chicken or the egg?  Cushing OK oil stocks dropped below year-ago levels for the first time since January last week, which may be caused by the return of backwardation incenting shippers to lower inventory levels, the shift to new WTI Midland and Houston contracts as the export market expands.  Of course, the low inventory levels are also blamed for causing the backwardation in crude oil prices, and the shift to an export market may keep inventories at the NYMEX hub lower for longer as fewer shippers want to go inland with their barrels.

Refined product inventories remain near the bottom end of their seasonal ranges, with a healthy recovery in demand after last week’s holiday hangover helping keep stocks in check.  The biggest mover was a large jump in PADD 5 distillates, which was foreshadowed by the 30 cent drop in basis values the day prior.   The big story for gasoline on the week was a surge in exports to the highest level of the year, which is helping keep inventories relatively tight despite the driving season having ended 2 weeks ago.

As expected, the FED held rates yesterday, but the open market committee also included a note that they expected to raise rates one more time this year, which sparked a selloff in equity markets that trickled over into energy prices Wednesday afternoon. The correlation between energy and equities has been non-existent of late, and already this morning we’re seeing products up despite equities pointing lower, so it doesn’t look like the FOMC announcement will have a lasting impact on fuel prices this time around.

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, Sep 20 2023

Week 38- US DOE Inventory Recap