One of the main shortages caused by the existing conditions in the energy markets and the looming sanctions, revolves around diesel. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Intermodal said that “only five weeks before western sanctions’ full effect, uncertainty over energy has markets and governments on the edge. What was initially thought to be an oil or gas crisis, turns out to be an unfolding diesel crisis, with scarce availability of the fuel and historically low inventories adding headwinds to an already tight market”.
According to Intermodal’s Research Analyst, Ms. Chara Georgousi, “in the US, diesel inventories are hitting historically low levels. Albeit fuel shortages, especially on the East Coast, combined US exports of crude oil and products surged to 11.4m b/d in the week ending October 21st, according to EIA. But while the US government is concerned over the unfolding diesel crisis, it is draining the SPR which has zero impact on diesel production. Officials are concerned that the 1m-barrel reserve will not suffice to counter a severe disruption this winter and are mulling ways to bolster supplies. In the meantime, oil companies are facing pressure from the government to export less fuel and build domestic inventories, while Biden’s administration has not yet ruled out a possible curb on exports. US refineries’ crack margins from turning crude oil into diesel are skyrocketing. Meanwhile, diesel demand nationwide is showing signs of hitting the brakes, surging to its highest seasonal level since 2007, over the last month before dipping this past week. The fuel shortage, which is crucial for heating and trucking, will likely be exacerbated as colder weather forces consumers to increase consumption to heat up their homes”.
Ms. Georgousi added that “in the meantime, two consecutive malfunctions in Europe’s biggest refinery, the Shell Pernis plant near Rotterdam, as well as refinery strikes in France have caused supply disruptions at a time when the continent can ill afford it, given the upcoming EU ban on purchases of refined petroleum from Russia that’s due to start in early February”.
“On the other hand, a bullish combination of recently granted fuel export quotas from the Chinese government to domestic refineries and the end of refinery maintenance work in some major Asian refineries are set to provide some relief to the current market tightness by lifting global refinery processing rates. More specifically, 290k b/d of refining capacity in South Korea will return from maintenance in November, while India’s planned maintenance procedures will resume by December. Meanwhile, China’s refiners have been utilizing the government’s export quotas and have been opting for higher prices overseas. Diesel output surged by 22% m/m to a historical high of 17m tons this month. This comes as a response to reviving diesel demand and collapsing jet fuel consumption. Chinese fuel exports are further underpinned by weak domestic demand. October loadings of clean fuels from Asia to the Americas surged to 715k tons in the week ending Oct. 31st, hitting a 3-year high. Looking forward, we expect that diesel cargoes from Asia will continue to flow toward the US East Coast, underpinned by current favorable market fundamentals”, Intermodal’ s analyst said.
She added that “overall, while we should expect some support from Asian refiners to the US market, the EU’s looming sanctions on Russian oil products will once again drive the market on the edge, as Europe, which is still reliant on Russian diesel, will ultimately run short on the fuel and could possibly draw some cargoes from Asia, limiting thus supply for the US”, Ms. Georgousi concluded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide