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Updated to Q1 2015
Refining margins for all crude oil products remained high during the first quarter despite a rally in ICE Brent crude oil futures in late January and early February, with refinery run rates continuing at high levels as a result.
Prices for crude oil products rallied on the back of the rebound in upstream Brent.
In late January, northwest European naphtha prices rose above $400/tonne CIF (cost, insurance, & freight) NWE (northwest Europe). Prices kept up their steady upward momentum through to early March.
Naphtha values then began a downward trajectory, dropping below $500/tonne once again by mid-March, before rallying to above $500/tonne by late March.
The volatility in March was mostly driven by movements in upstream Brent crude oil, but naphtha fundamentals were exceptionally strong throughout the first quarter.
In bunker fuel markets, amendments to the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Marpol and European Commission’s sulphur directive mandated a maximum sulphur use of 0.1% in bunker fuel from 1 January 2015.
Low-sulphur fuel oil (LSFO) with 1% sulphur content – the grade being replaced – stopped trading in the European open market. The shipping industry is using marine gasoil in its place.
Northwest European gasoline barge spot prices rallied early in the first quarter of 2015 in line with upstream ICE Brent crude oil futures.
Eurobob gasoline barge prices rose above $500/tonne FOB ARA in early February and continued to rise steadily, pushing past the $600/tonne mark in early March.
Prices rose further in late March as gasoline cargo and barge specification switched from winter to summer grade in preparation for the US summer driving season.
Overall demand from the US was unexpectedly high on the back of a spate of cold weather-related refinery outages in the country and because of a nationwide refinery strike.
Brazil and Venezuela bought exceptionally high levels of gasoline in the European market following the US supply tightness.
Nevertheless, gasoline exports to the US are under pressure compared to recent years because of the ongoing shale revolution in the country.
Europe is long on gasoline and exports to the US and West Africa to keep stocks in balance.
Updated to Q2 2016
US refined products prices were pressured by oversupply and tepid demand in the second quarter, when peak demand normally begins. Global supply disruptions did little to quell production in the US, which has helped to put crude oil and gasoline inventories at record levels. Production remained strong going into the summer months on the expectation that historically low prices would boost demand. While there have been pockets of strength, summer demand has been disappointing.
The retail ceiling price for gasoline posted two increments and two declines over the August-November period. Because of the weak wholesale market, petrol stations were able to give considerable discounts for gasoline, because their margins remained good.
Gasoline consumption was relatively high in the third quarter, because China’s sales of vehicles that run on gasoline increased by 15% year on year from January to October. From mid-August to mid-October, end-user demand rose because of high temperatures in China’s summer months and increased vehicle usage during the National Day holiday which fell on 1-7 October. Additionally, China raised its retail ceiling prices twice in the same period, which boosted speculative trade.
However, demand fell slightly from the second half of October to mid-November, because it was the offseason for gasoline, while international crude prices had weakened.
On the supply side, both Sinopec’s and PetroChina’s refineries kept relatively high operating rates of 80-84% from mid-August to mid-November. The gasoline output ratio was above 20%, because it had better margins compared with other products.
In terms of blended gasoline, supply was ample during the same period, as end-user demand was weak, with Sinopec and PetroChina having bought only a small amount.
Updated to mid-November 2013
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ICIS price assessments are based on information gathered from a wide cross-section of the market, comprising consumers, producers, traders and distributors from more than 250 reporters world-wide. Confirmed deals, verified by both buyer and seller, provide the foundation of our price assessments.
Our in-depth market knowledge drives our specialist focus, as we recognise the importance of individual market dynamics and not a one-size-fits-all approach.
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