What is driving the pricing of fuels

Some current information and little bit of speculation about fuel cost and availability for the balance of 2006.

As of early April 2006, the average price of #2 diesel is in the $2.58 per gallon range, with gasoline prices continuing to rise, now exceeding the cost of diesel in many areas.

There is currently what is called a ?seasonal reduction? in the availability of Low-Sulfur Diesel that is likely to be exacerbated by the continuing tight supplies of crude. This reduction of about 400,000 barrels per day available to the markets will further tighten the supply and provide continued upward pressure on prices.

The world is currently using approximately 85 million bpd or 3,570,000,000 gallons; yes that?s three and one half billion gallons per day. If you convert this into ships at 93,900,000 gallons per Ultra Large Crude Carrier (ULCC) supertanker, this means the world uses 38+ of these supertankers per day.

The current worldwide production capacity is only about 87 million bpd. That is if everything is perfect. As of today, there is approximately 300,000 bpd of capacity that has been cut-off in Nigeria, the Iraqi production is up and down on daily basis, the situation in Venezuela is deteriorating, and there is political trouble in virtually every major oil producing country outside of North America.

The current production of crude oil from the Gulf of Mexico is approximately 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) (12,600,000 gallons) less than was prior to the 2005 hurricane season.

Also, sometime in the next 18 to 24 months the huge North Sea oil fields will peak in production and begin a gradual decline. Because of this the UK will go from being a net exporter of crude to becoming a net importer of crude.

This is all important because the worlds demand for oil is growing rapidly. China and India?s demand for oil is increasing at about 30% per year. Even if the oil continues to flow at its current rate, shortages will develop in the next year or two. As with anything else, the greater the demand, the higher the price goes.

According to Energy Information Administration (EIA)  the US produces approximately 5,419,000 bpd of crude and we import 10,088,000 bpd from other countries. This means that nearly 2/3 of our oil is now imported. By the way, Canada is now our larger supplier selling us about 1,616,000 bpd.

We also import 5,224,000 bpd of finished (refined) petroleum. When added up we use 20,731,000 bpd or about ? of the worlds production.

Knowledgeable sources believe that gasoline will soon exceed $3.00 per gallon in most if not all of the US. This is in part a normal increase for the summer driving season and in part from tight crude supplies.

Many within the industry expect the price of #2 diesel to rise $.30 – $.35+ as the new Ultra-Low Sulfur requirements take effect June 1st.

There are concerns over the lack of segregated storage space to house a new fuel in addition to the fuels currently available in the market.

For example in most areas you have available:

  • High Sulfur Diesel #2
  • Low Sulfur Diesel #2
  • Heating Fuel #2 and or #4
  • Heating Fuel #6, aka: Bunker C, IFO, etc.
  • #1 Kerosene High Sulfur
  • Jet A
  • #1 Kerosene Low Sulfur
  • Regular Unleaded Gasoline
  • Premium Unleaded Gasoline
  • AV Gas  80
  • AV Gas 100
  • (there are dozens of other potential products being stored)

To begin storing Ultra-Low Sulfur #2D and Ultra-Low Sulfur #1 (for winter blending) will mean either constructing new tanks (almost no-one is adding new storage at this time) or replacing some other product.

In many cases High Sulfur Diesel #2 will be replaced with the Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel #2.

There is a major concern over the purchasing and storage of Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel #1. The concerns are that due to its higher cost as compared to Jet A, High Sulfur #1 Heating Fuel, and Low Sulfur #1 Diesel; that it will be difficult to sell this product for non-highway use. Traditionally many refiners and distributors would use the same #1 fuel for both heating and to ?cut? or blend with #2 for cold weather use. Additionally in many areas Jet A has been used for this cutting or blending.

Due to the requirement that on-highway diesel fuel contain less than 15 ppm of sulfur (after June 1, 2006) and the fact that varying from this will potentially cause damage to the catalytic particulate traps required on 2007 on-highway equipment, the use of High Sulfur #1, Low Sulfur #1, or Jet A is no longer an option for cold weather blending.

There is a further concern that the severe hydrotreating process that most refiners will use to remove the sulfur from the fuel will leave it ?over-worked?. The term ?over-worked? refers to fuel that is so altered by the processes used to remove the sulfur* that it becomes difficult or impossible to treat the fuel with conventional additives to improve its various characteristics such Cold Filter Plug Point, Pour Point, Cetane, etc.

What all of this means to users of these fuels is that there is the potential for spot shortages or even possible allocation of Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel #1 for use in blending during cold weather. A shortage of any amount of blended fuel during cold weather can have serious implications for fleet and equipment operators who do not have an alternative means of treating their fuels.

In the short term, we need to develop new oil fields, rework existing fields to obtain all the available oil. In the mid-term we need to immediately begin work to perfect coal gasification, coal to oil conversion, and tar sand oil production. In the long-term we need to use more hydro, solar, geothermal, and safe nuclear energy.

We need to embrace new technologies that will produce more bio-fuel?s including bio-diesel, ethanol, hydrogen, and combination fuels.

We will all need to consider our usage of petroleum based fuels to put this limited resource to its best use.

Enertech Labs has done and continues to do extensive research and testing to ensure that our customers will have safe trouble free operation in all seasons using gasoline, diesel, bio-diesel, and alcohol based fuels.

Keep checking this newsletter for news on what prices are expected to due in the next 3-5 years and on what you can do to maintain your equipment in the most cost-effective manner.