Posts from John Auers

Around the world, a lot of smart people in the public and private sectors hold similar views on where we’re all headed, energy-wise. An accelerating shift to renewables and electric vehicles, driven by climate concerns. A not-so-far-away peak in global demand for refined products like gasoline and diesel. There are also what you might call consensus opinions on some energy-industry nuances, like how much global refining capacity will be operational in 2025 and what the spread between light and heavy crude oil will be in the years ahead. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from the new Future of Fuels report by RBN’s Refined Fuels Analytics (RFA) practice, including RFA’s different take on a few matters large and small — and all of critical concern to producers, refiners and marketers alike. 

A wide range of ever-changing economic and other forces — domestic and international — are constantly impacting the U.S. refinery complex, for good and for bad. Fluctuations in crude oil supply and prices. Ups and downs in demand for refined products. Refinery closures and expansions. And don’t forget this: the pace of the much-discussed transition to lower-carbon energy sources. There’s a lot at play in the world of gasoline, middle distillates and resid — renewable fuels too — and while industry players can’t fully anticipate what’s next in the refined-product roller coaster ahead, it’s critically important to keep up with the latest developments and to have a deep understanding of the many factors influencing crude oil and fuel markets — and the relationships among those drivers. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the key findings in a newly released update to Future of Fuels, an in-depth report by RBN’s Refined Fuels Analytics (RFA) practice on everything you need to know about U.S. and global supply and demand for gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and biofuels over the short, medium and long term.

U.S. refiners have been enjoying some very good times the past couple of years. Most important, refining margins have soared due to a tight global product supply/demand environment brought on by, among other things, the post-COVID demand recovery, refinery shutdowns, Russia/Ukraine war effects, and high natural gas prices. Traditionally, the bulk of refining margins have come from (1) robust “crack spreads” (the general yardstick for measuring overall refining sector health, simply by taking the difference between a basket of refined products and key light sweet crude markets like WTI Cushing or MEH) and (2) the lower crude-input costs that many refineries benefit from, either because of location-related advantages or their ability to process lower-cost crude like medium and heavy sours. But location discounts have narrowed in recent years due to the buildout of pipelines and, as we discuss in today’s RBN blog, the big quality discounts that complex refiners relished through much of last year and the first few months of 2023 have withered. The question is, why?

Over the next couple of years — and the next couple of decades — global supply/demand dynamics in refined products markets will be driven by two critically important factors. The first is the understandable reluctance of refiners to expand capacity in the face of climate policy and ESG headwinds. The second is a growing gap between policymakers’ aggressive energy-transition goals and the global pivot to a renewed focus on energy security brought about by the Russia-Ukraine war and worries about China’s global ambitions. These factors, which will fuel the prospects for constrained supply and higher-for-longer demand, have far-reaching implications, not only for refinery owners but also for E&Ps, midstreamers, exporters, energy industry investors and policymakers, all of whom need to gain a clearer understanding of what’s just ahead — and what’s over the horizon, just out of sight. In the encore edition of today’s RBN blog, we discuss key findings in “Future of Fuels,” a new, in-depth report by RBN’s Refined Fuels Analytics practice on everything you need to know about U.S. and global supply and demand for gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and biofuels over the short-, medium- and long-term.

Over the next couple of years — and the next couple of decades — global supply/demand dynamics in refined products markets will be driven by two critically important factors. The first is the understandable reluctance of refiners to expand capacity in the face of climate policy and ESG headwinds. The second is a growing gap between policymakers’ aggressive energy-transition goals and the global pivot to a renewed focus on energy security brought about by the Russia-Ukraine war and worries about China’s global ambitions. These factors, which will fuel the prospects for constrained supply and higher-for-longer demand, have far-reaching implications, not only for refinery owners but also for E&Ps, midstreamers, exporters, energy industry investors and policymakers, all of whom need to gain a clearer understanding of what’s just ahead — and what’s over the horizon, just out of sight. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss key findings in “Future of Fuels,” a new, in-depth report by RBN’s Refined Fuels Analytics practice on everything you need to know about U.S. and global supply and demand for gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and biofuels over the short-, medium- and long-term.

U.S. gasoline and diesel prices have been sliding the past couple of months, but there's still a lot of angst among politicians and the general public about the cost of motor fuels — and who's to say prices at the pump won't soar again, spurring another round of proposed "fixes" to the markets for crude oil and refined products. Among the proposals floated when prices spiked this spring were bans on the export of U.S.-sourced crude, gasoline and diesel, the idea being that suspending exports would increase the supply available to domestic markets and thus bring down prices. If only it were all so simple! In today's RBN blog, we discuss the complicated ins and outs of oil, gasoline and diesel imports and exports, and the many effects of putting the kibosh on shipments to international markets.

We often tend to focus on the U.S. refining picture, but, just like crude oil, refined products trade globally, and international closures ultimately have the same effect as domestic ones on the worldwide products market. Recent international closures have been distributed throughout the world — concentrated in developed countries, including several in Europe, as well as Japan, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, but also in some developing economies like South Africa and Sri Lanka. Most of these capacity reductions were driven by the same forces as in the U.S., namely, poor economics as a result of the pandemic-lockdown-driven demand plunge in 2020 and 2021, as well as expectations that margins would take a long time to recover post-COVID. Of course, worries that the energy transition and policies to that end would suppress demand in the long-term also played a key role, as did some fundamental competitiveness issues at individual facilities. In today’s RBN blog, we take a closer look at the more than 2 MMb/d of international capacity closures since 2019.

Refineries in the Rocky Mountains region, defined by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) EIA as Petroleum Administration for Defense District (PADD) IV, are smaller and less complex than they are in the rest of the U.S. The region is landlocked and the 16 refineries – average size only 42 Mb/d - rely on U.S. light sweet crude produced locally or in North Dakota as well as Western Canadian heavy crude. The combination of rich supplies of crude and increased demand for refined products such as diesel means that refinery margins are high. These healthy economics are encouraging refinery expansions. Today we examine these plans.

No, we aren’t talking about Colorado’s recent legalization of the “wacky weed”, but rather the high that the rush of light crudes is bringing to the refining industry in PADD IV, the Rockies region.  While John Denver’s famous lyrics spoke of the magic of the Rocky Mountains, regional refiners have found elation in recent years as both domestic and readily accessible Western Canadian production increased, stranding crude supplies, putting downward pressure on prices and lifting their margins sky high.  Today we examine how this has impacted the economics of the region and incentivized investment.