Diesel prices are not among the numbers the Energy Information Administration will release this week as it climbs out of a technology crash.
A spokesman for the EIA, a division of the Department of Energy, said the weekly benchmark diesel prices that serve as the basis for most fuel surcharges will not be released late Wednesday along with the EIA’s gasoline prices, which also had been delayed by tech issues.
The EIA announced midday Wednesday that gasoline numbers would be released at 5 p.m. EDT. A day earlier, it had said the closely watched EIA Weekly Summary report would be coming out on time Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. EDT. However, there was no reference to the diesel prices in the statement.
“No updates on diesel at this point except to say that we know it won’t be this week,” EIA spokesman Chris Higginbotham said in an email to FreightWaves.
While the weekly diesel and gasoline prices are normally released late Monday, next week’s number is scheduled to come out Tuesday due to the Fourth of July holiday.
The EIA now has a backlog of diesel prices that includes those of Monday, June 20, and Monday, June 27. The June 20 data was to be released June 21, due to the Juneteenth holiday on June 20. But Higginbotham has said on several occasions that the price would be effective June 20 and that the technical problems that have befallen the EIA did not impact its ability to gather the data used in the price.
With the basis for fuel surcharges in flux, the question is how billing is proceeding. One unidentified company sent an email to its customers that said it has been “communicating with settlements and we will be going based off of last week’s FSC rates.” The reference to last week would be the June 13 price of $5.718 per gallon.
It is believed companies will then make adjustments to what they billed based on the new numbers for June 20 and 27.
When those prices are published for those dates, as well as July 5, they will be amid a market that on a futures and wholesale basis has taken a significant downturn since June 13 but one where retail prices have not followed suit.
The price of ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) on the CME commodity exchange is now down 53.52 cents per gallon from its recent high on June 16 at $4.5719. The settlement Wednesday was $4.0367 per gallon, a drop of 16.27 cents on the day and a 3.87% decline.
But retail prices have remained stubbornly “sticky.” The DTS.USA data series in SONAR shows that since a recent high of $5.852 per gallon on June 22, average national retail diesel prices have fallen only to $5.82 on Wednesday.
Futures markets plummeted Wednesday on a weekly EIA summary report — which the market had not seen for two weeks and among other things showed U.S. refineries cranking along at 95% of capacity, the highest level since September 2019.
That rate of operation is putting plenty of diesel into the market even as there are other signs of fading demand. For example:
- Product supplied for distillates, which is a proxy for demand for distillates, such as diesel but not for jet fuel, dropped almost 300,000 barrels per day (b/d) from a week earlier to 3.568 million b/d. That number is 359,000 b/d less than the five-year average for the third week of June, excluding data from 2020. The five-year average for last week is 3.927 million b/d of distillate demand. This year’s figure is 90.8% of that.
- Inventories, which were driving diesel higher for months, are starting to normalize. At 30.6 days’ cover, distillate inventories in the U.S. are back above 30 days for the first time since the second week of January. On the East Coast, which was suffering from extremely tight diesel inventories just a few weeks ago, stocks for PADD 1, the government-designated statistical area that includes the East Coast, are just below 26.9 million barrels. Just four weeks earlier, they were at 18.8 million barrels.
- There were bearish numbers in the report that were not directly diesel-related. U.S. oil production is up to 12.1 million barrels per day, the highest level since the final week of April 2020 when the pandemic was beginning to grip the world.