The recent trend of low operable capacity and high utilization rates will give way to an increase in distillation capacity and lighter maintenance. Consequently, the growth of operable capacity will outpace crude demand. The next 12 months will feature higher operable capacity that will lead to bearish pressure on petroleum product spreads and pressure utilization rates lower.
Higher prices are incentivizing accelerated growth in the Bakken. Although natural gas processing capacity remains a looming constraint in some locations, crude oil production is forecast to reach 1.4 million b/d by next summer. At this pace, it won’t be long before pipeline capacity becomes full and incremental growth will be dependent on rail once again.
European distillate inventories, which currently stand at about 480 million barrels, are roughly 40 million barrels beneath year-ago levels. Diminished stocks in combination with a widening distillate import requirement, which is expected to grow by 100,000 b/d over the next twelve months, will provide bullish support for distillate spreads going.
Over the next twelve months, global demand growth for both gasoline and diesel is expected to decelerate. The rapid growth of diesel demand in the first half of 2018, particularly in the United States, is set to diminish as higher interest rates and trade tensions create headwinds for the economy. Economic headwinds in combination with higher absolute prices will also be a drag on gasoline demand growth. In China, an expanded “blue sky” policy on retiring polluting diesel vehicles will shift more freight transport to rail, limiting distillate demand.
Meanwhile, global production of transport fuels is expected to continue accelerating as throughput rises, particularly East of Suez. As a result, global transport fuel market fundamentals will loosen and fuel spreads to crude will weaken globally. Downward pressure on gasoline spreads will be particularly pronounced.
Shrinking Latin American diesel and gasoline deficits will also exert bearish pressure on global product markets. Over the next twelve months, Latin America will absorb less U.S. diesel and gasoline as Latin American deficits of the two products narrow.
The summit between President Trump and the Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, has come and gone in a flurry of photographs and a very short and very vague agreed statement. The meeting was largely symbolic and strict U.N. sanctions remain in place, but reduced tensions could eventually create an environment for stronger trade links between North Korea and China, Russia, and South Korea
High imports in the last three months have led to high level of stocks at Shandong ports and refineries that were previously in maintenance. ESAI Energy estimates that China’s industry stocks will reduce from 350 million barrels at the end of May to around 330 million barrels by August. Imports would be further tempered to perhaps around 9 million b/d.
After growing by 60,000 b/d year-on-year to an average of 180,000 b/d in the first half of 2018, the U.S.’ exportable gasoline surplus is expected to continue expanding through 2019. This growing surplus will be bearish for the Atlantic Basin gasoline markets and exert downward pressure on spreads to crude as Latin America’s import requirement shrinks and U.S. exporters compete more intensely with European producers to place volumes within the region.
Regional crude production will decline severely in 2018. Regional production of crude oil and condensate is set to fall by more than 650,000 b/d to 7.9 million b/d in 2018, due mainly to enormous decreased in Venezuela, smaller declines in Mexico, and lackluster growth in Brazil.
Iranian President Rouhani recently met with President Xi at the SCO Summit. This meeting comes shortly after the withdrawal of the U.S. from the JCPOA, and the threat of U.S. sanctions on companies doing business with Iran. It is tempting to assume that China will strengthen ties with Iran, expanding oil trade with the Islamic Republic. However, China’s interaction with Iran is likely to be more symbolic than substantive.
Aggressive fuel price increases caused Brazil’s truckers to strike in May. The resulting government subsidy to smooth out diesel prices for consumers will help Petrobras raise runs and avoid sacrificing market share to importers. At the same time, demand is expected to grow by 20,000 b/d to 960,000 b/d. ESAI Energy expects Brazil’s diesel import requirement to remain flat in the second half of 2018 at 210,000 b/d.
Southeast Asia’s oil demand will remain strong in 2018. National elections in a half-dozen Asian countries this year and next are prompting some governments, like Indonesia and Malaysia, to reintroduce fuel subsidies to quell inflation as oil prices rise. This should support demand growth in the short term, but a deceleration is likely by the first half of 2019.
Later this year, California regulators will vote whether to extend the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard(LCFS) from its current expiration in 2020 to 2030. If it passes, renewable diesel would be the biggest winner among biofuels. A shortage of renewable diesel in California would create a strong incentive for producers to build new capacity in the next decade, particularly in feedstock-rich Asia.
Kazakhstan’s production growth will slow from 175,000 b/d last year to about 70,000 b/d this year and 40,000
b/d in 2019. Due to Kazakhstan’s slowing production growth, overall FSU production will increase by only 60,000 b/d this year. In 2019, the continued deceleration in Kazakhstan means the prospects for FSU production growth will hinge on Russia’s role in the OPEC+ deal. In that country, the Kremlin’s consideration of an agreement to loosen restrictions signals that political leaders are aligning more closely with producers who are eager to raise output.
The strength of Russian crude demand and improving notional refining margins contrast with reports of weak Russian refining margins. Despite the tax maneuver and other setbacks to refineries, annual crude demand will bounce back from its recent low of 5.6 million b/d in 2016 to 5.75 million b/d in 2018. Coupled with secondary unit investment, higher throughput assures growing gasoline and diesel exports.
Proposed RFS targets for 2019 are circulating, though they are not yet official. The use of a cellulosic waiver limits any reduction in the overall advanced biofuels volume requirement. The result is a more than 400 million gallon increase in the requirement for “other” advanced biofuels. This advanced deficit will provide additional support for D4 and D5 RIN prices in 2019 and will widen D5 – D6 price differentials during the second half of 2018 and into 2019.