gasoline

Monday, 06/27/2022

Refinery closures. Shifting demand for gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Yawning price differentials for refined products in neighboring regions. These and other factors have spurred an ongoing reworking of the extensive U.S. products pipeline network, which transports the fuels needed to power cars, SUVs, trucks, trains and airplanes — not to mention pumps in the oil patch, tractors and lawnmowers. New products pipelines are being built and existing pipelines are being repurposed, expanded or made bidirectional, typically to take advantage of opportunities that midstreamers, refiners and marketers see opening up. In today’s RBN blog, we begin a review of major pipelines that batch gasoline, diesel and jet fuel and look at the subtle and not-so-subtle changes being made to the U.S. refined products distribution network.

Wednesday, 06/22/2022

In film and television, the “boxed crook” trope is where a condemned person is sought as a last-ditch effort to pull off some impossible mission or overcome a formidable opponent. In return, the convict is typically offered amnesty or other consideration by the operatives in charge. Millennials will probably think of the recent Suicide Squad movies. For Generation X, The Rock starring Sean Connery was a great example. And for the boomers, it was The Dirty Dozen. Our current situation in the U.S. energy sector may not be quite as thrilling as those movies but the same plot elements exist. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the predicament faced by industry and political leaders and begin to sort out the various proposals to put a lid on prices and restore energy security.

Monday, 06/20/2022

In the next few days, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will hold an emergency meeting with leading energy executives to discuss steps E&Ps and refiners could take to increase crude oil production, refinery capacity and the production of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, all with the aim of reducing prices. The prelude to the get-together was less than ideal, though. In a June 14 letter to the top brass of four integrated oil and gas giants and three large refiners, President Biden criticized them for “historically high refinery profit margins” and for shutting down refining capacity before and then during the pandemic. In addition to rejoinders from the companies, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) defended their actions, discussed the complexity of refined products markets, and asserted that the Biden administration’s statements and policies have actually discouraged investment in refining and oil and gas production. Is there a middle ground here? In today’s RBN blog, we look at the high-level correspondence and discuss how at least some compromises might be possible.

Thursday, 06/16/2022

For several years now, no single topic has caused more angst in refiners’ quarterly earnings calls than the seemingly arcane topic of renewable identification numbers, or RINs, which can have a big impact on a refiner’s financial performance. RINs are a feature of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires renewable fuels like ethanol and bio-based diesel to be blended into fuels sold in the U.S. And depending on your point of view — farmer, refiner, blender, consumer, politician — you may have a very different perspective regarding RINs’ role as a tax and a subsidy. In today’s RBN blog, we dig into the fundamental aspects of RINs at the root of this long-running controversy and examine the role of RINs as a mechanism for forcing renewables into fuels.

Tuesday, 06/07/2022

Last month, in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) latest ruling in a long-running dispute with refiners over the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), EPA denied 36 petitions from refiners seeking exemptions to their obligation to blend renewables like ethanol into gasoline for the 2018 compliance year. At the core of this dispute are two contradictory premises about Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs. One premise says the RINs system adds cost that hurts refiners’ profitability, while the other says refiners’ profitability is not affected. Can two seemingly contradictory premises be true? In today’s RBN blog, we begin an examination of the issues surrounding RINs and the degree to which the cost affects refiners’ and blenders’ bottom lines.

Monday, 05/23/2022

U.S. diesel inventories are at their lowest level for May since 2000 and East Coast stocks recently hit their lowest mark for any week or month since the EIA started tracking them in 1990. Crack spreads for diesel — and, more recently, for gasoline — have gone parabolic, giving refiners the strongest financial signal ever to produce more diesel and gasoline as we enter the summer travel season. More jet fuel too. The problem is, U.S. refineries already are running flat-out. And Europe? It’s facing big cuts in crude oil and refined-products imports from Russia as well as much higher prices for — and possible shortages of — oil and natural gas, the latter being the primary fuel for operating refinery hydrocrackers, which upgrade low-quality heavy gas-oils into high-quality diesel, gasoline and jet. It’s a mess, and not easily fixable, as we discuss in today’s RBN blog.

Thursday, 05/12/2022

Electric vehicles (EVs) in the U.S. may be at a turning point, with high gasoline prices prompting would-be car buyers to give them a second look — or a first look, in many cases. EV adoption has been slow to pick up speed in the U.S. for a variety of reasons, including the lack of a nationwide charging network and concerns about “range anxiety.” But a major factor has always been that gasoline-fueled cars have been cheaper to purchase and operate than EVs. The recent run-up in gasoline prices, amplified by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has changed the math in those comparisons, at least in the short-term. Is the pace of EV adoption about to accelerate, or will trends in gasoline and electric power prices put the transition into cruise control, or even neutral? In today’s RBN blog, we look at how forecasts for power and gasoline prices might shape the conversations around EVs through 2030.

Friday, 05/06/2022

Over the past few weeks, many U.S. refiners reported even-stronger-than-expected first-quarter results, and it’s likely their good fortune will continue. Why? Despite the skyrocketing price of crude oil — refiners’ primary feedstock — the prices of the gasoline and diesel they produce have risen even more. And it’s that now-yawning gap between crude oil and refined-products prices that’s been driving refining margins — and refiners’ profits — to near-historic levels. Refining margins, like the character and capabilities of thoroughbreds like “Rich Strike” in Saturday’s amazing Kentucky Derby, are unique to each refinery because of their different sizes, equipment and crude slates (among other things), but there’s a tried-and-true way to estimate the refining sector’s general profitability, as we discuss in today’s blog on U.S. refiners’ sky-high crack spreads.

Tuesday, 05/03/2022

The energy market has been in chaos for some time. Even before Russia’s horrific attack on Ukraine, the multinational push to decarbonize the global economy was slow-motion-crashing into reality. Of course, global supply shortages only got worse following the invasion and the widespread response to it. The disruptions highlight the critical need for a balanced energy policy, both in the U.S. and abroad. This became evident in Europe last year, when a heavy, early reliance on renewable energy, largely wind, left much of the continent short on fuel and scrambling for natural gas when the wind didn’t blow enough. The overall supply-demand balance caused prices to rise steadily as the global economy climbed out of its COVID-induced recession. Then the situation became more dire as embargoes on Russian crude oil and gas were planned and implemented. In the U.S., the Biden administration, eager to both “green” the economy and keep gasoline prices in check, has been giving mixed signals to E&Ps and their investors, telling them to both ramp up investments in production and expect to play a smaller and smaller role going forward. It’s a confusing world. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the current energy environment, the policy roller-coaster, challenges to the increased usage of renewables that remain unaddressed, and how the politics of decarbonization are making the ongoing energy transition a very difficult row to hoe.

Tuesday, 04/19/2022

It’s no secret that higher gasoline prices are a problem for a lot of folks, including everyday drivers, businesses and — maybe especially — the politicians who hear the complaints from the first two. Although prices at the pump have been trending higher for some time, they’ve really come to the forefront in the past several weeks following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has stressed global energy markets and sent U.S. officials looking for any and all options to keep a lid on prices. In today’s RBN blog, we look at President Biden’s decision to allow the sale of E15 gasoline during the summer months, whether it’s likely to provide U.S. drivers significant relief from high prices this summer, and how global pressures are moving ethanol prices higher too.

Wednesday, 04/06/2022

Even before the recent spike in crude oil and gasoline prices, the subject of a contentious House committee hearing Wednesday with executives from six large oil and natural gas companies, electric vehicles (EVs) were having a bit of a moment. From legacy brands such as BMW and General Motors to the EV startup Polestar, several automakers used their spots during February’s Super Bowl — the most-watched event on the TV calendar, where the cost for a 30-second ad went for a whopping $6.5 million — to highlight their latest EV offerings. Now, with gasoline prices about 50% higher than they were a year ago (and about 20% higher than they were on Super Bowl Sunday), EVs are getting a whole new level of attention from everyday drivers, not just Tesla fanboys, car afficionados, or the environmentally conscious. In today’s RBN blog, we look at whether the recent run-up in gasoline prices will help turn EVs into a more economical option.

Tuesday, 03/08/2022

WTI is selling for north of $120 a barrel, gasoline and diesel are retailing for more than $4.10 and $4.80 a gallon, respectively, and, with Russia continuing its unprovoked war against Ukraine, it’s hard to imagine prices for hydrocarbons easing by much anytime soon. As startling as the recent spikes in crude oil and refined products prices may be, however, it’s worth keeping in mind that, in real-dollar terms, prices for these commodities have been considerably higher in the past, including through much of the 2006-14 period and back in 1979-81. And don’t forget, the car, SUV, or pickup you’re driving today consumes about two-thirds as much fuel per mile, on average, as the vehicle you (or your parents) drove back when Ronald Reagan was running for president and Pink Floyd’s The Wall was the best-selling album. In today’s RBN blog, we put today’s “record-breaking” prices for crude oil and motor fuels in perspective.

Monday, 05/10/2021

We all hope that by the time you read this the operators of the ransomware-impacted Colonial Pipeline will have been able to restore service to more of the 5,500-mile refined products delivery system — maybe even to all of it. In any case, the shutdown of the Houston-to-New-Jersey pipeline system on Friday both exposes the vulnerability of the North American pipeline grid to malevolent hackers and reveals how, by its very nature, that same grid offers at least some degree of redundancy and resiliency built into it. A lot of that ability to respond to a crisis, whether it be a pipeline leak or a hack by an Eastern European criminal group called DarkSide, involves what you might call “market-inspired workarounds” — alternative suppliers reacting to an anticipated supply void and potentially higher prices by jumping into action. Today, we look at what the ransomware attack on the U.S.’s largest gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel transportation system can teach us.

Tuesday, 04/27/2021

As governments and corporations around the world evaluate methods of decarbonization across sectors, one focus area has been transportation, since the petroleum fuels used to mobilize economies are significant contributors to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) is one of the longest-running programs for carbon intensity (CI) reduction targeting the transportation sector and provides an ideal case study to review for a better understanding of how one type of GHG reduction policy is anticipated to work. As many of the principles in this pioneering program are being evaluated for replication elsewhere, its results and consequences are still in the making. In today’s blog we’ll provide an overview of the Golden State’s groundbreaking LCFS, looking at its history, how it functions, and its effectiveness at meeting its goals to date.

Sunday, 03/28/2021

As part of the Paris Agreement and other regional sustainability goals, countries across the globe are formulating strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The resultant policies target numerous different areas such as stationary emissions, electricity production, and transportation fuel sourcing. Within the transportation sector, one aspect that has spurred quite a bit of investment relates to reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuels. The “low carbon fuel” policies that are in place today, coupled with those that are being evaluated for the future, have the potential to displace a sizeable portion of the petroleum-based fuels in the regions where they are adopted. In today’s blog, we begin a series on low carbon fuel policies, the mechanisms being evaluated to meet increasingly stringent regulations, and the impact these regulations could have on refined-products markets.