Technical Trapdoor Opens

Market TalkThursday, Oct 29 2020
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The technical trapdoor has opened and energy prices fell right through with refined products dropping more than a dime since Tuesday’s close. Fear continues to be in the driver seat across multiple asset classes as U.S. equities had their biggest one-day selloff since June, while energy futures were reaching multi-month lows. 

Yesterday’s DOE report was actually more bullish than the API report that got credit for an early wave of selling, with gasoline and diesel stocks declining and demand increasing across the board, but it did little to slow the downward momentum. Now that support is broken on the charts, and traders appearing to fixate more on where demand is headed instead of where it is, it looks like the next stop is $34 for WTI and $.96 for RBOB unless the bargain hunters start stepping in soon. ULSD prices still have not broken their September lows, but if they do break $1.06, it looks like they’ll make a push towards the $1 mark as well.

How 2020 is this? A hurricane made a direct hit on one of the country’s largest refinery clusters Wednesday, and that wasn’t even the biggest refining news of the day. 

PBF announced it was halting fuel production at its Paulsboro, NJ facility due to the ongoing demand destruction and weak economic outlook for refining in the region. The facility may reopen in a limited capacity when demand recovers, but will be focused on providing feedstocks to PBF’s other east coast refinery in Delaware City. 18 months ago, the east coast (PADD 1) had 1.2 million barrels/day of refining capacity, when PES shut down that dropped to 889,000 barrels/day, and with Paulsboro offline will fall to roughly 723,000 barrels/day. That 40% decline in less than two years is certainly a big deal, but should not have an immediate impact on supply as actual run rates in the region are currently below 600,000 barrels/day. There is capacity on pipelines from the Gulf Coast and from waterborne vessels to cover this drop in production – particularly at current demand levels – but that loss of production will create the potential for supply bottlenecks, particularly in the Philadelphia market when summer demand is at its peak and VOC restrictions on RBOB limit supply.

Zeta made landfall as a strong Category 2 hurricane Wednesday night, with winds around 110 miles an hour (just 1 mph below Category 3 status). The storm passed within about five miles of the Valero/Meraux and PBF/Chalmette refineries as it moved through New Orleans. Earlier reports suggested that the NOLA-area refineries planned to operate through the storm, but now it appears that power outages have taken several of them offline temporarily while damage assessments are underway.  

Make no mistake, in any other year, having five tropical systems hitting refining country and knocking multiple refineries offline in one season would be cause for sharply higher prices, and potential shortages throughout the region. This year, Gulf Coast cash markets have barely flinched and futures are tumbling due to the lack of demand that means there’s plenty of capacity to offset the storm-induced outages.

An EIA report Wednesday showed how tanker rates that spiked into the spring due to the super-contango forward curve have now reached their lowest levels in nearly two decades and are expected to remain at low levels until global demand recovers.

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TACenergy MarketTalk 102920

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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