US Diesel Inventories Declined For A 7th Straight Week, Keeping Total Stocks At The Low End Of The Seasonal Range

Market TalkThursday, Mar 7 2024
Pivotal Week For Price Action

It’s been a choppy start to Thursday’s trading with energy futures flipping back and forth between gains and losses, after some bullish demand figures in the DOE report Wednesday sparked a healthy rally.

Energy markets appear to be shrugging off news that the latest Houthi Missile attack caused the first fatalities aboard a merchant ship in the Red Sea conflict while new reports suggest the undersea cables that were cut last week may have been caused by a sinking ship.

US diesel inventories declined for a 7th straight week, keeping total stocks at the low end of the seasonal range even though PADDs 2 and 4 remain at the top end of their seasonal range. The wildcard in diesel stocks of course is PADD 5 where the renewable diesel that’s been flooding the west coast over the past several months still doesn’t show up in the weekly stats, meaning total stocks are likely 4 million barrels or so above the official PADD 5 estimate, which is why we’re seeing weak basis values despite the DOE showing inventories below their seasonal range. The DOE’s estimate for diesel demand also saw a huge increase last week, marking a 4th week of big back and forth swings, proving more that the agency’s estimates are error prone than anything else. The good news if you’re a diesel producer is that the DOE’s figures are understating diesel demand somewhere in the 4-5% range due to RD not being factored into the numbers.

Gasoline stocks declined for a 5th straight week, following their typical seasonal pattern of drawing down inventories as the spring RVP transition kicks in. One major difference in the gasoline figures compared to the past few years is that the East Coast (PADD 1) is actually seeing inventory builds thanks in large part to above average imports and the return of previously idled local refining capacity, whereas PADDs 2 and 3 are seeing big declines. That excess supply stretching from New York to New England looks like it’s already backing up demand for resupply, which helps explain why Colonial Line 1 space is trading for minus 5 cents/gallon these days. That overhang will need to be dealt with in the next several weeks if shippers are going to get their tanks turned ahead of the spring deadline.

As expected, refinery runs saw a large increase of nearly 5% last week as several of the country’s largest refineries return from maintenance. The Gulf Coast refining hub is now running at higher rates than it was this time last year, but remains far below where runs were prior to the January freeze.

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Market Talk Update 03.07.2024

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Market TalkMonday, Jun 17 2024

CFTC Commitment Of Traders Report Confirmed Short Covering Was Pushing Up Pricing

It’s a quiet start to the week for energy contracts with modest gains of around a penny in the early going for refined products, while crude oil contracts are up less than 50 cents/barrel.

Houthi Rebels continue to attack ships transiting the Red Sea, with the U.S. Navy forced to rescue the crew from 2 different cargo ships that were struck over the past week.

China’s refineries slowed their run rates in May as planned maintenance and weak margins were both cited as contributing to a pullback from the world’s largest oil importer.

The CFTC’s commitment of traders report Friday confirmed that short covering by money managers was most certainly pushing up prices the week prior. WTI saw nearly half of its large speculative short positions bought back in just 1 week, while Brent’s multi-year high short bets were cut by 20%. In total, more than 62,000 crude contracts and 20,000 diesel contracts were repurchased after funds realized their bet that prices would continue sliding after they’d already hit multi-month lows was a mistake. The unwinding of the big speculators’ bets on lower oil prices will no doubt thrill the Saudi Arabian oil minister who famously threatened the “gamblers” back in 2020.

The National Hurricane Center is tracking 2 potential storm systems this week, one in the SW Gulf of Mexico is now given 70% odds of being named, but is expected to move inland over Mexico and not bring a major threat, but will bring thunderstorms to the U.S. Gulf Coast this week. The other system is only given 30% odds of development off of the coast of Georgia or South Carolina and doesn’t appear to be a threat to energy infrastructure.

The EIA published its annual U.S. refining capacity report Friday, which shows operating facilities as of January 1. It finally caught up with the Beaumont facility expansion completed more than 15 months ago, marking the largest growth in U.S. capacity in nearly a decade. Total operable capacity is still below the peak set in 2019 and is expected to drop further as the P66 Rodeo facility was converted this year, and the Lyondell Houston Refinery is once again expected to shut its doors at the end of the year. Since the government’s report is so far delayed, perhaps the most interesting part is the listing of all refineries that have closed since 1990.

Total reported 24 hours of flaring at its Port Arthur, TX refinery over the weekend. The only unit mentioned as a Flare Gas Recovery system so it appears the event won’t have a major impact on operations.

Baker Hughes reported 4 more oil rigs were taken offline in the U.S. last week, bringing the total count to a 2.5-year low at 488. Natural gas rigs were unchanged on the week at 98, the lowest total since October 2021.

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Market TalkFriday, Jun 14 2024

ULSD Futures Leading The Energy Markets Recovery Rally Today With 6 Week High

The recovery rally continues in energy markets with ULSD futures leading the way reaching a 6 week high this morning. If you were one of the money managers who decided to jump on the short-selling bandwagon at the start of June, you’re now underwater by around $5/barrel for crude oil contracts, and 25 cents/gallon for diesel contracts, which appears to be adding upward pressure to the market as that hot money heads for the exits, and is forced to buy out of their losing bets.

The recovery rally in refined products hasn’t done much to help out refiners that are still looking at their worst summer margins since the COVID lockdowns. The margin outlook is even worse for refiners in other parts of the world, particularly in Asia which is dealing with a glut of supply due to a rush of capacity additions in the past 2 years. Singapore announced this week that it was offering carbon tax rebates for its refiners to try and keep them afloat and able to compete with their new competition from China and Kuwait.

The enemy of my enemy: The American Farm Bureau and Corn Growers associations joined the American Petroleum Institute in a lawsuit Thursday challenging the EPA’s vehicle emissions standards. After the Ag and Oil lobbies have spent decades competing with each other for tax incentives and mandates on ethanol and biodiesel blends, they’ve found common ground in fighting the threat of EVs on their market share, with farmers providing the logical argument that rural communities [and tractors] aren’t conducive to EV use. The Renewable Fuel Association meanwhile is promoting its solution: Plug-in electric hybrid flex-fuel vehicles, or PHEFFVs for not-so-short.

The NHC is now giving 50% odds of development for the storm system brewing off of Mexico’s eastern coastline, but even if that system is named it looks like it will head west over land before threatening the U.S. The other system that threatened Florida this week is now making its way up the East Coast, but won’t be a major storm. Florida is still dealing with flash flooding, but so far there are no reports of terminal outages or port disruptions.

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Market TalkThursday, Jun 13 2024

Bearish Fundamentals, Hawkish FED Sentiment Leave Energy Futures Searching For Direction

It’s been a choppy morning for energy futures so far, bouncing back and forth between small gains and losses after more inventory builds and a hawkish outlook from the FED both combined to put a stop to the recovery rally Wednesday.

Refined products were trading up 4-5 cents/gallon ahead of the DOE’s weekly report yesterday morning, but quickly wiped out most of those gains after the agency showed more builds in refined product inventories which have reached their highest levels for June since 2021. Refiners did cut run rates for the first time in 6 weeks, but the declines were minor and overall throughput rates remain at the top end of the seasonal range. The DOE’s estimate for product demand did tick modestly higher as well, but those gains weren’t enough to stop the trend of steadily increasing stocks.

Meanwhile, the EIA is still struggling to get its accounting system to keep pace with the U.S. market, as its adjustment factor swings from adding around 8 million barrels the week prior to taking away around 8 million barrels this week. A surge in oil imports to a 5-year high (thanks Transmountain Pipeline) helped oil inventories continue to increase despite that huge drop in the adjustment factor and a drop in exports last week.

The FED left interest rates alone Wednesday and signaled it was likely there would only be 1 rate cut in 2024. Odds of a 25-point cut at the July 31 FOMC meeting dropped from 21% to 8% after the announcement according to the CME’s Fedwatch tool.

The tropics are getting active already in what’s expected to be a very busy year for storm activity. There’s a system that moved over Florida this week, and while it’s only given 20% odds of being named, it dumped more than a foot of rain on parts of the state. So far the Pt Everglades terminal facilities seem like they’ve weathered the big rain much better than when several of them ended up under water from flash flooding a year ago. There’s another system given 40% odds of developing off the Mexican coast, but early forecasts have it shifting west into Mexico and not targeting the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Valero reported an upset at its McKee TX refinery following a Thunderstorm Wednesday, but it appears no operating units were forced to slow down from that event. Meanwhile, Marathon’s Galveston Bay refinery is working its way back towards the lead in the race to have the most TCEQ filings, with yet another upset reported yesterday, this time in a sulfur recovery unit which was able to return to service in roughly 5 hours.

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