Witnessing A Technical Breakout In Energy Prices

Market TalkTuesday, Oct 5 2021
Pivotal Week For Price Action

We’re witnessing a technical breakout in energy prices as oil and diesel contracts have surged to 7 year highs after chart resistance at the 2018 highs failed to contain the rally. OPEC & Friends decision to stick with their existing plans for oil output sent prices soaring Monday morning, and that momentum has carried through the overnight session. With OPEC members not willing to formally commit to new production increases (don’t forget they are already planning to increase output by 400,000 barrels/day each month) it seems there will not be a short-term answer to the supply crunch for energy supplies being felt around the world these days, which gives the bulls a strong argument to keep pushing prices higher.      

While gasoline prices haven’t yet joined diesel and crude at 7 year highs, the fact that we’re seeing winter-grade gasoline specs rival the highs from summer-grade prices earlier in the year, after the US driving season has been put in the rearview mirror is no less impressive. 

A pair of pipeline leaks last weekend are creating plenty of trouble for their local communities, but so far appear to be having limited impact on prices.

The well-publicized oil spill caused by a pipeline leak near Los Angeles is creating plenty of ecological damage, even though the size of the spill (roughly 3,000 barrels) is fairly small in comparison to evens like the Deepwater Horizon spill that was estimated near 60,000mb PER DAY for several weeks) or the Exxon Valdez spill which was more than 260,000 barrels.  While the damage to beaches and wildlife is tragic, and may take months to recover, the relative small size may explain the lack of market reaction so far.   Adding insult to injury?  Some reports suggest that a ship’s anchor may have caused the pipeline to rupture (although the cause is still being investigated) which gives an unfortunate new perspective to the ship backlog at the port of Long Beach. 

Meanwhile, a not-so-well-publicized leak in Alabama shut down the pipeline formerly known as Plantation last week, causing some suppliers to restrict product allocations at terminals across the South East.  The lack of publicity for this event suggests that Kinder Morgan’s strategy of changing the pipeline’s name to something generic like the Products (SE) Pipeline, is a stroke of brilliance, and/or that the industry has become numb to supply disruptions after going through so many over the past year.  Gulf Coast basis values barely flinched following the news, and premiums for line space on the competing Colonial line remained in negative territory. Reports suggest the pipeline expects to resume operations tomorrow (10/6).

RINs had a 5th straight session of strong buying interest, with D6 values moving north of $1.30/RIN for the first time in nearly a month, and rallying 45 cents since bottoming out last week. The strength in RINs seems to be helping keep refined products outpace the rally in crude oil as crack spreads will adjust to offset the impact of the RVO for refiners. The industry continues to wait for official word on the long overdue blending obligations from the EPA, and with congress gridlocked on debt, infrastructure and tax bills, it’s hard to know if we’ll see the actual numbers anytime soon.  

Meanwhile, BP became the latest refiner to announce plans to expand its Renewable Diesel production, with an investment at its Ferndale WA plant that would allow co-production of RD along with traditional refined products. That means that BP, Chevron and Exxon are all working towards avenues of co-producing renewables at existing refineries, while Marathon, P66 and Holly are going the route of converting existing refineries to produce RD.  The outcome of these new investments may define the refinery landscape in the coming decade, as co-production could allow some refiners to stay afloat – and continue producing other products – vs a conversion that all but ends most other output.

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

Market Update (01C)

News & Views

View All
Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Feb 22 2024

Week 7 - US DOE Inventory Recap

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Feb 22 2024

RBOB And ULSD Futures Down Around 2.5 Cents After A Mixed Performance Wednesday

Refined products are leading the energy complex lower to start Thursday’s trading with both RBOB and ULSD futures down around 2.5 cents after a mixed performance Wednesday.

The API reported another large build in crude oil inventories last week, with inventories up more than 7 million barrels while gasoline inventories increased by 415,000 barrels and diesel stocks dropped by 2.9 million. The crude oil build was no doubt aided once again by the shutdown of BP’s Whiting refinery that takes nearly ½ million barrels/day of oil demand out of the market. That facility is said to be ramping up operations this week, while full run rates aren’t expected again until March. The DOE’s weekly report will be out at 11am eastern this morning.

Too much or not enough? Tuesday there were reports that the KM pipeline system in California was forced to shut down two-line segments and cut batches in a third due to a lack of storage capacity as heavy rains have sapped demand in the region. Wednesday there were new reports that some products ran out of renewable diesel because of those pipeline delays, bringing back memories of the early COVID lockdown days when an excess of gasoline caused numerous outages of diesel.

The Panama Canal Authority has announced $8.5 billion in sustainability investments planned for the next 5 years. Most of those funds are aimed at sustainability efforts like modernizing equipment and installing solar panels, while around $2 billion is intended for a better water management system to combat the challenges they’ve faced with lower water levels restricting transit by 50% or more in the past year. More importantly in the near term, forecasts for the end of the El Nino pattern that contributed to a record drought, and the beginning of a La Nina pattern that tends to bring more rain to the region are expected to help improve water levels starting this summer.

The bad news is that La Nina pattern, coupled with historically warm water temperature has Accuweather forecasters sounding “Alarm Bells” over a “supercharged” hurricane season this year. Other years with a similar La Nina were 2005 which produced Katrina, Rita and Wilma and 2020 when we ran out of names, and the gulf Coast was repeatedly pummeled but markets didn’t react much due to the COVID demand slump. Perhaps most concerning for the refining industry is that unlike the past couple of years when Florida had the bullseye, the Texas coast is forecast to be at higher risk this year.

RIN prices continued their slide Wednesday morning, trading down to 38 cents/RIN before finally finding a bid that pushed values back to the 41-42 cent range by the end of the day.

The huge slide in RIN values showed up as a benefit in Suncor’s Q4 earnings report this morning, as the Renewable Volume Obligation for the company dropped to $4.75/barrel vs $8.55/barrel in Q4 of 2022. Based on the continued drop so far in 2024, expect that obligation to be nearly cut in half again. Suncor continued the trend of pretty much every other refiner this quarter, showing a dramatic drop in margins from the record-setting levels in 2022, but unlike a few of its counterparts over the past week was able to maintain positive earnings. The company noted an increase in refining runs after recovering from the Christmas Eve blizzard in 2022 that took down its Denver facility for months but did not mention any of the environmental challenges that facility is facing.

Valero’s McKee refinery reported a flaring event Wednesday that impacted multiple unites and lasted almost 24 hours. Meanwhile, Total reported more flaring at its Pt Arthur facility as that plant continues to struggle through restart after being knocked offline by the January deep freeze.

Speaking of which, the US Chemical Safety board released an update on its investigation into the fire at Marathon’s Martinez CA renewable diesel plant last November, noting how the complications of start -up leave refineries of all types vulnerable.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkWednesday, Feb 21 2024

It’s A Mixed Start For Energy Markets To Start Wednesday’s Session After A Heavy Round Of Selling Tuesday

It’s a mixed start for energy markets to start Wednesday’s session after a heavy round of selling Tuesday. RBOB gasoline futures are clinging to modest gains in the early going while the rest of the complex is moving lower.  

WTI is pulling back for a 2nd day after reaching a 3.5 month high just shy of $80. The pullback pushes prompt values back below the 200-day moving average, reducing the likelihood of a breakout to the upside near term.

ULSD values are down nearly 10 cents for the week and are down more than 26 cents from the high trade set February 9th. That pullback leaves ULSD in neutral territory and could act as a headwind for gasoline prices that still seem poised to at least attempt a typical spring rally that adds roughly 20-30% from winter values.

RIN prices continue their slide this week, with D6 and D4 values reaching new 4-year lows around $.41/RIN Tuesday, which is down just slightly from the $1.62/RIN they were going for a year ago.

HF Sinclair reported a loss for Q4 this morning, with its refining and renewables segments each losing roughly $75 million for the quarter. The change from a year ago in the refining segment is a harsh reminder of the cyclical nature of the business as earnings dropped more than $800 million year on year, with inventory cost adjustments accounting for roughly ¼ of that decline.   

While it wasn’t mentioned in the press release, HFS has the most direct exposure to New Mexico’s recent approval of a clean fuel standard that will start in 2026. That law will no doubt help the company’s struggling Renewables assets in the state but will also create extra costs for their traditional refining operations.

The EIA this morning noted that conditions in the Panama Canal improved slightly in January, allowing Gulf Coast exports to Asia, primarily of Propane and ethane, to increase. While transit capacity is still far below levels we saw before the drought reduced operations in the canal, any improvement offers welcome relief to shippers as they can avoid going the long-way around to avoid the violence in the Red Sea.

France’s navy didn’t waste any time getting into the Red Sea action, shooting down a pair of Houthi Drones less than a day after joining the EU’s official mission to assist in clearing the shipping lanes. It’s not yet clear whether this marks the first official military victory by the French since Napoleon. 

Reminder that the weekly inventory reports are delayed a day due to the holiday Monday.

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