Energy Market Updates

Diesel Cash Spreads Normalizing, but Kero Concerns Lurk Ahead

Hope’s not a four letter word, although, probably not the best strategy in the fuel business. 

Two weeks ago we had said that hopefully we see pricing top out as supply appeared to be moving into the Northeast.  That looks to be occurring, as cash values have dropped at twice the speed of futures and almost catching up to normal spreads. (see below).  

On 11.9.22, cash prices were $1.20 higher than futures, as of today they are $.0150 higher.  This means that diesel product is being shipped, getting purchased, and somewhat loosening the supply constraints for some.  Thus the reason you have seen your prices fall so dramatically the last few weeks.  However, supplies do remain tight as the backwardation persists, limiting some Suppliers from taking product in tank along with an uneasy feeling on demand over the next few weeks. 

The other elephant in the room is Kerosene, which is in extremely tight supply throughout the region.  A niche product used primarily in the Northeast and Central US for outdoor heating and road fuel winterization is still seeing record high prices as many try to source gallons. 

As I have discussed with many of you in the last few months, diesel-kero blends for winter operability purposes will be high relative to years past.  

With Crude pricing falling to 10 month lows this week capturing much of the headlines and rumors of an OPEC+ production increase (albeit quickly dismissed) swaying markets somewhat, the real focus should remain on Distillate pricing.  Again, the volatility looks to stay in place until the forward months level out and we see how the Russian price cap plays out that is due to take effect on 12.5.22.  It was just in late September that ULSD traded roughly $.50 lower than present.  Still hope.   

As always, the Team at Dennis K. Burke is here to assist and answer any questions you have.  Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.

 

ULSD Cash vs Nymex 11.24.22

 

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PADD1 Inventory Fears Keep Pressure on Suppliers

padd1

I’ve been away…..any talk about diesel supply? 

News cycles have jumped all over the fear topic of only 25 days of supply of distillates in the Northeast.  It is true that PADD1 distillate Inventories are well below the five year average and PADD1A (New England) is even more tight, however, it is important to understand the term “days of supply”.  That is defined as if everything stopped today.  No production, no pipeline shipments, no vessels, no trucking and we kept using as much distillates as we are at this very moment.  Slightly different than how it can be perceived by watching a news clip. 

Distillate inventories were actually slightly up this week as exports fell by some 300k barrels per day, although our inventories are still some 20mbl below last year.  Key to yesterdays inventory report was that refinery utilization (production) is running at 91% which is up over 4% versus last year and historically this is a high rate.

So what does all this mean?   

For many years, having supply contracts was the standard in the fuel business.  As time went on, predominantly in gasoline, this shifted to suppliers selling excess gallons at the going price, commonly referred to as “rack” gallons.  Because there is very little excess product, the rack marketer is put on the sideline while the contracted supplier keeps companies rolling. 

Future pricing turned positive yesterday on the draw of Crude stocks (makes sense because of the high production rate) and the FED adding another 75 point basis hike to key rates.   Cash values turned negative as there are some rumblings that we actually may see a release of finished product into the northeast in the next week or so.  While this is a temporary measure, it could loosen up for just enough time.  Look for price action to remain volatile over the next few weeks with hopefully a trend to the downside.

ulsd dec1

 

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Distillate Inventory Concerns Persist, Particularly in New England

We have been saying for several weeks that the distillate inventory picture is not the brightest, even more so in New England.  The news cycle has taken hold of this, and judging by the number of calls and conversations I’ve had in the last week, it is starting to sink in. 

We currently sit about 20 million barrels below last year of distillate inventory.  The chart below shows a five year picture and very infrequently would we dip below 120mbl of storage.

inventory chart

With winter approaching, and New England the primary consumer of Heating Oil, the fear is there will not be enough to go around should there be an extended period of cold.  Moreover, if power plants get curtailed from using Natural gas, the alternative source is diesel fuel. 

Courtesy of NEFI, the winter temperature outlook shows the Northeast to be in the third year of a La Nina pattern and that typically means a warmer than average season ahead of us, albeit with a colder December to start. 

weather chart

Exports of Distillates continue to be robust, as we are sending about 1.2mbl per day overseas.  Last week we mentioned that quick relief might come in the way of releasing finished product reserves into the market instead of unfinished crude.  That has fallen by the wayside over the last several days, as this is a market condition and not a physical event, like the last release during Super Storm Sandy. 

Government officials have been quoted as saying “nothing is off the table” in terms of a solution and we have now seen another idea floated which on the surface makes sense.  It has been suggested to relax the sulfur specification on distillates to allow shuddered refining equipment to come back online, thus boosting production and requiring products to remain domestically. 

Years ago, refiners chose not to invest into units in order to produce the ultra low sulfur products we use today (15ppm vs 500ppm).  Opponents say that the turn around time would be too long, and not the quick fix we need. 

Price action continues to be extremely volatile, and I would expect that to stay through the end of the year as the backwardation in the market remains, limiting any excess or “rack” gallons to be available.  Again, having a supplier with a redundancy of contracted supply options and the means to get you product will get you over this hump and better positioned in the future.

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Cash vs Future Spread & Precarious Supply Picture Keeping Diesel Users on Edge

Many refer to Diesel as being the backbone of the American Economy.  Trucks, trains, equipment, and ships all rely upon diesel for power.  So when a blowout happens, it can affect mostly all aspects of our daily lives - from the food we buy, to the clothes we wear, and even the way we operate our businesses, even if those blowouts are short lived. 

Since last Thursday we have seen the spread between future prices and cash prices grow to $.80 on Monday only to subsequently fall to $.55 yesterday.  (see chart below).  Tuesday and Wednesday saw diesel values weaken as deals appeared to be getting done for physical product delivered into New York Harbor. 

The Northeast continues to see distillate inventories hover around precariously low levels as a new round of SPR releases were announced this morning.  This appears to be the path that Government Officials want to take but some don’t believe it to working for us New Englanders and distillate users, although Crude and Gasoline are relatively stable.  Rather than releasing crude, some suggest releasing finished diesel reserves to calm markets as the backlog in the refining process and subsequently exporting the finished goods at a higher rate than selling domestically is only prolonging the recovery process.  Capping or limiting exports looks to be off the table as it could throw global markets into a spiral and appears to be Politically too risky.   

While Heat and Diesel values appear to be correcting (knock on wood!) we are still almost $1 higher than the beginning of the month.  I would expect the next several days to be very choppy in terms of prices.  Today as an example ULSD started down over $.04 and at present is up almost $.02, not even taking into account what cash markets will actually do.  I cannot stress enough how important it is, and will be, to have a strong relationship with your supplier during these times.  Having various contracted supply points, along with the ability to get you product, will likely be a defining characteristic over the next several months.

Cash vs Futures

 

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Cash vs NYMEX Blowout on Supply Concerns Keeps Diesel Elevated

If there is one thing that I am sure of in all my years in this Industry it is that Customers do not like surprises

The last two weeks (or two years for that matter!) have certainly offered up many surprises.  News over the last three days has highlighted “Crude prices falling”, however, the disconnect from Crude pricing to the finished diesel product pricing has never been more sharply contrasted. Front month Diesel futures have once again skyrocketed $.80 to touch the $4.00 level in the last two weeks for the fifth time.  The rapid rise and rapid drop cycle doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. 

The big surprises have come in the way of Cash Diesel prices rising more than futures.  As illustrated above, diesel cash values have blown out over $.50 over futures values.  The month prior they were practically even, and historically they tend to only be a few cents apart.  So why?  

Realistic concerns over product shortages in New York Harbor hit the market in the last several days as not many offers were taken on barges. What that means is that product is still moving overseas versus into US ports, thus slowing resupply and pushing up pricing for any product already in tank.  Cash markets move racks more than futures do, although most only look at the NYMEX as the driver. These types of cash to screen blowouts are historically short lived. (We can only hope this is not another “historic” trend change, I think we can all agree that we’re tired of those).

Be sure your Supplier has adequate, guaranteed supply and the ability to get product to you as the fewer the surprises you have, the better.

 

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Hurricanes, Inventory & Nord Stream Concerns Keep Diesel Volatile

Volatility continues to have a hold on the diesel market.  In the past week alone, we have dropped over $.30 and subsequently rose $.30 in just four sessions. 

There is always a hurricane premium laid into the market once storms reach the gulf.  Reality is that less than 10% of the Gulf Region Production was pulled offline in the last few days and most are back online at this point.  However, as the storm moves on, your will see a rolling port closure effect as it moves up the close which likely will cause regional increases in the next day or so.  

Inventories showed draws across the board this week with much of the same import- export spreads while some real focus was put on demand figures being stronger.  For diesel much of the increase can be attributed to the fall harvest that typically happens this time of year throughout the country.  Still, it gave traders a reason to buy over the last wo days. 

Concerning news on several “leaks” on the NORAD Stream gas pipeline that feeds much of Europe from Russia, as the issue now appears to deliberate in nature.  This could force shipments of US product overseas for the foreseeable future and keep prices elevated. 

Other bullish tidbits came in the way of Senator Manchin pulling his Fastrack Energy Permit Plan in order to prevent a Government Shutdown.  This was seen as a bright light to many in the Industry a few weeks ago.  Two up days doesn’t necessarily break the trend, but its hard to comprehend when they erase the losses we all were so happy to see. 

 

 

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Fundamentals Continue to Push Futures Around

If you were to read the news, it is almost impossible to tell which way the Oil markets are going as the volatility has all pits in wild daily swings.  Fortunately for most of us, diesel prices have corrected over $.30 in the last three days and all but erased the early August climb. 

Demand, Economy, and Inventory are the fundamentals that continue to push futures around.  Reports from the IEA on worldwide demand “coming to a halt” in the fourth quarter due to slowing global economies and continued lockdowns in China rippled through the market yesterday along with interesting Inventory news.  Demand right now sits at its lowest point since JAN21.   

Shown below, gas stocks fell to a 10 month low, but was taken lightly as it is typical this time of year as we switch seasonal grades.  The bearish news came with Distillates building for a third week in a row, albeit still 12% off from a year ago.  Unfortunately for us in the Northeast, our stocks fell by 3%.   Exports of distillates finally fell last week but again they are a staggering 83% higher than last year. With the FED poised to make another 75 basis point rate hike, most anticipate the collateral damage to be demand.  Thus fueling sell off. 

This summers price action is truly one for the record books.  Since May, ULSD has gone up $1, down $1, Up $1 and down $1.  Remember the days that if the market moved $.01 you had  a meeting to figure out what to do?   

Having a good relationship with your supplier is critical during these times.  While it is impossible to predict what the pits will do, its always best to at least know what is happening.

 

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Volatility Continues with Economic Concerns, Export Increases

In the last 6 sessions we have seen ULSD futures slide just over $.50 in value.  While this is good news, the previous 6 sessions added just about the same amount. So basically we are back to the same levels we were mid-August where we all felt pretty positive pricing was moving in the right direction. Much of the rise can be attributed to money being put into the market as an inflation hedge as rates continue to rise, though it is tough to keep that money in long term with the ever present backwardation. 

The slide the last week has come as demand concerns continue to make headlines and more currently China is again locking down several major cities with COVID concerns.  Yesterdays inventory report seemed Bullish on the surface with draws on all products but like anything, the devil is in the details.  Many saw the latest news cycle highlighting the possibility of fuel shortages coming this winter.  A good explanation shows in this weeks report.  Refiners are operating at pre-Pandemic levels, yet domestic inventories of finished products are still down- the key factor is that our exports of gas and distillates are up over 500m b/d over last year. 

Again, it is still better for companies to ship products overseas to get 5x the value than if it were to sell into the US markets.  Forcing US producers to sell into US markets versus formerly heavily Russian supplied countries may appear as abandonment in their time of need politically speaking, and moreover, will that force those countries to “amend” Russian import sanctions……thus it’s a delicate balance.  

The field seems to be mixed on the last few months of the year in where pricing will be headed although the common theme is that the volatility, up or down, is here for a while.

Sept 1 ULSD

 

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Inflation Reduction Act Helps Keep Downward Trend Intact

The past two weeks has seen ULSD rise, and subsequently fall almost $.20 on the front month.  Much of the dip in the last few days came as market players were able to digest some of the details in the 785 page Inflation Reduction Act which appears to moving its way through.  One piece which many believe will have the most impact on futures is that the bill revives lease sales canceled or delayed by President Biden including: one in Alaska’s Cook Inlet  and three in the Gulf of Mexico.  This section also appears to require the Biden Administration to adopt Trump era directives for 2022 oil and gas leasing established.

 Yesterday was clearly driven by inventories and demand concerns with gasoline.  However, distillates were the red headed step child, shrugging off any loses and actually finishing the day higher as demand numbers stayed healthy and inventories dipped.  Crude and gasoline took all the attention with a surprise build in crude and an almost 8mbpd drop in gasoline demand.  It’s really an odd disconnect but many of us actually see it on a daily basis.  Construction, trucking, etc remains strong but on a personal level we may be starting to pull back our own driving habits. 

An OPEC+ hike of 100,000 bpd is rather insignificant as they usually over produce or under produce by that much anyway.  Markets will always have bounces in either direction but often time the trend is still intact, and it appears the downward trend is still there. 

August 4 ULSD

 

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Despite Early Week Gains, the Trend is Still Your Friend on ULSD

With Friday and Mondays' sessions cutting into the recent losses on ULSD by about $.35, it’s important to keep in mind the trend is still your friend. With early morning action seeing ULSD down $.08, we are still down over $.80 in the last few weeks. 

Downward pressure continues on the pit with yesterday’s build across the board on crude and products, the Inventory report erased nearly all of the early morning gains.  Inventories are now almost to the low end of the 5 year average. 

The daily volatility in both gas and diesel makes it extremely difficult to provide quotes.  Shameless plug….  The DKB Exchange allows you to secure real time pricing on product…..   Yesterday, ULSD was up almost $.11 at one point and down over $.05 before closing up marginally $.0033 to $3.6659.   

Inflation is now at a 40 year high, which also posed concerns as its widely expected we will see another rate hike by the FED, which will likely pressure demand and continue to push futures down.  This time of year we always have to keep in mind NOAA hurricane estimates, and with an “above Normal” estimate in place with 14-21 named storms for this season, there could be some storm premiums shed in the market if this does not materialize.   Supplies of finished product still remain tight in areas with the backwardation not going away, albeit getting smaller. 

The hope is, that in the next 60 days or so we get back to normal spreads.

 

7-14 ULSD

 

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