World’s oil refiners are struggling to make enough diesel: Here’s why

By Jack Wittels, Rachel Graham, Chunzi Xu and Alex Longley

The world’s oil refiners are proving powerless to make sufficient diesel, opening a brand new inflationary entrance and depriving economies of a gasoline that powers business and transport alike.


Whereas oil futures are rocketing — on Friday they had been just under $95 a barrel in London — the rally pales compared with the surge in diesel. US costs jumped above $140 to the very best ever for this time of yr on Thursday. Europe’s equal soared 60% since summer season.


And it might worsen. Saudi Arabia and Russia have turned down the faucets on manufacturing of crudes which are richer in diesel. On Sept. 5, each nations — leaders within the OPEC+ alliance — introduced they might delay these curbs via year-end, a interval wherein demand for the gasoline normally picks up.

“We’re at risk of seeing continued tightness in the market, especially for distillates, coming into the winter months,” mentioned Toril Bosoni, head of the oil market division on the Worldwide Vitality Company, referring to the class of gasoline that features diesel. “Refineries are struggling to keep up.”

The scenario is difficult for a world refining fleet that’s been dogged by lackluster manufacturing for months. Searing Northern-Hemisphere warmth this summer season compelled many vegetation to run at a slower tempo than regular, leaving stockpiles stunted. 

There’s additionally been stress on them to make different merchandise as a substitute like jet gasoline and gasoline, the place demand has rebounded laborious, based on Callum Bruce, an analyst at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Different Fuels


All this comes on high of a world refining system that shuttered less-efficient vegetation when Covid-19 trashed demand. Now consumption is rebounding however many refineries are gone.

There’s nonetheless hope that the diesel crunch can ease. With cooler winter months approaching, the weather-related constraints on the refineries total lower — even when a few of them will bear routine seasonal upkeep.

“We think margins have overshot for now,” Bruce mentioned, including that stretched market positioning and the short-term nature of some refinery disruptions might spark a reversal.

Nonetheless Issues


Even so, there are nonetheless worries about provide from some key diesel-exporter nations. 

Russia — nonetheless a serious provider to the world regardless of Western sanctions — has indicated that it’s trying to restrict the quantity of the gasoline it sends to world markets. 

China — one other potential supply-relief valve — just lately issued a brand new gasoline export quota, however merchants and analysts in Asia mentioned the quantity at present deliberate received’t be sufficient to forestall a good market via the tip of the yr. The nation’s shipments have been caught close to five-year seasonal lows for a lot of 2023. 

These decrease flows are displaying up at key storage hubs. Observable stockpiles within the US and Singapore are all at present beneath seasonally regular ranges. Inventories in OECD nations are decrease than they had been half a decade in the past.


The restricted provide has financial penalties. The surge in US futures has been pushed partially by truckers snapping up the gasoline.

“Diesel is the fuel of the 18-wheeler truck that moves products from factory to market, so when prices spike, those higher transportation costs get passed on to businesses and consumers,” mentioned Clay Seigle, director of world oil service at Rapidan Vitality Group. 

Whereas there was rising hope that the US economic system can keep away from recession, “an energy price spike – whether in gasoline or diesel fuel prices – could undermine much of that progress,” he added. “This risk is not lost on anyone in Washington as election campaign season approaches.”

Hovering diesel costs can also push refineries to prioritize the gasoline on the expense of creating gasoline, he mentioned.

Weak Demand


The scenario for diesel might have been worse as a result of consumption progress hasn’t been as sturdy as different components of the barrel. 

The IEA’s month-to-month report final week anticipated consumption rising by about 100,000 barrels a day this yr. That compares with virtually 500,000 barrels a day for gasoline and greater than 1 million barrels a day for jet gasoline and kerosene.

“It’s a supply issue at heart,” mentioned Eugene Lindell, head of refined merchandise at marketing consultant FGE. “European refineries were also unable to build up supplies over the summer because of widespread unplanned outages which has left inventories tight ahead of winter.”

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