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switch between natural gas and oil products and an additional 9% of capacity in the region is strictly oil-fired. As the cold weather increased demand for natural gas for space heating, the natural gas supply infrastructure reached its limits and could not provide enough natural gas to meet overall demand, which also includes commercial, industrial, and power generation uses. When natural gas supplies are insufficient to meet demand, supply to so-called ‘interruptible’ customers can be curtailed, increasing natural gas available to residential customers and increasing distillate demand from those customers interrupted, which are mostly industrial customers and electric power generators. In addition, as natural gas demand increased, prices for natural gas spiked higher than distillate fuel (Figure 3), spurring voluntary fuel switching that further increased consumption of distillate for power generation by fuel-switchable and petroleum-only power generating units, which generally make decisions about the dispatch of electric generation units based on variable operating costs. This winter’s cold weather also disrupted distillate supply and distribution networks in the Northeast. Boston and New York Harbors, along with other major waterways such as the Hudson and Delaware rivers, froze, complicating marine deliveries of petroleum products to distribution terminals. New England has no local refineries and most supplies enter the region through the ports of Boston, Massachusetts; Portland, Maine; and Providence, Rhode Island. In addition, New York Harbor also receives significant volumes of petroleum products via marine deliveries. The logistical challenges in resupplying distillate to storage terminals combined with increased distillate demand for heating and power generation caused distillate inventories in the Northeast to decline by 8 million barrels (31%) between January 23 and February 27. As of February 27, distillate inventories in the Northeast (PADD 1A and PADD 1B) had fallen to 18 million barrels, the bottom of the five-year range (Figure 4). However, the Northeast is part of the actively traded Atlantic Basin petroleum market and, as is typically the case in 46

the winter, imports increased to meet demand and barrels from Canada, Europe, and Russia resupplied the region. The most recent inventory data as of March 18 show distillate stocks have stabilized. Natural gas customers with interruptible service are no longer being curtailed by constrained pipelines, reducing their demand for distillate fuel, and natural gas prices have fallen back below distillate prices, eliminating the market incentive for switching to distillate. Recent weather forecasts also suggest the harsh winter weather is ending. As temperatures continue to moderate, the distillate supply situation in the Northeast should continue to improve.


The U.S. average retail price for regular gasoline decreased three cents from last week, to $2.45 per gallon as of March 16, 2015, $1.09 per gallon lower than the same time last year. The only increase in price occurred in the Rocky Mountain region, up six cents to $2.29 per gallon. The West Coast price was down seven cents, to $3.12 per gallon. The Midwest price decreased five cents to $2.29 per gallon. The East Coast price fell two cents to $2.40 per gallon, and the Gulf Coast price was down a penny to $2.22 per gallon. The U.S. average price for diesel fuel decreased three cents from the week prior to $2.92 per gallon, down $1.09 per gallon from the same time last year. The Midwest, Gulf Coast, and West Coast prices each fell three cents to $2.82 per gallon, $2.76 per gallon, and $3.06 per gallon, respectively. The East Coast price decreased two cents to $3.08 per gallon. The Rocky Mountain price increased one cent, to $2.81 per gallon.

PROPANE INVENTORIES GAIN U.S. propane stocks increased by 0.5 million barrels last week to 54.3 million barrels as of March 13, 2015, 28.0 million barrels (106.9%) higher than a year ago. Gulf Coast inventories increased by 1.3 million barrels and East Coast inventories increased by 0.1 million barrels. Midwest inventories decreased by 0.8 million barrels, while Rocky Mountain/West Coast inventories were unchanged. Propylene non-fuel-use inventories represented 8.5% of total propane inventories.



PBE Magazine April 2015  

PBE Magazine April 2015  

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