U.S. Northeast Diesel Climbs as Cold Weather Crimps Inventories

Diesel fuel in the U.S. Northeast reached the strongest level since March as cold weather boosted demand for home heating, drawing inventories to the lowest seasonal level in more than two decades.

Ultra low sulfur diesel in the New York Harbor, the delivery point for New York Mercantile Exchange futures, added 0.88 cent to a premium of 7 cents a gallon to futures at 1:51 p.m., a third consecutive advance and highest since March 28, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Differentials widened after the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that distillate stockpiles in the U.S. central Atlantic states, known as PADD 1B, tumbled 1.6 million barrels to 18.2 million in the week ended Jan. 10, the lowest level for the time of year in data going back to 1990.

U.S. consumption of distillates, including heating oil and diesel, fell 91,000 barrels to average 3.56 million barrels a day in the past four weeks, the lowest since Feb. 1, EIA weekly data shows. Demand typically climbs in cold weather when people use natural gas and heating oil to heat homes and businesses.

“There are concerns in the U.S. Northeast, where a lot of heating oil is used when it’s cold,” said Stephen Schork, president of the Schork Group in Villanova, Pennsylvania. “Inventories there are already challenged.”

Below-normal temperatures are forecast to sweep across the eastern U.S. through the end of January, with lows hitting 8 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 13 Celsius) in New York on Jan. 23, according to MDA Weather Services in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Frigid Temperatures

That follows a spell of frigid weather that struck much of the Midwest and Northeast in early January, scrapping U.S. flights and disrupting pipeline and refinery operations.

PBF Energy Inc.’s Paulsboro, New Jersey, refinery is expected to be down for several weeks of repairs as crews inspect units that were affected by a loss of steam, according to a person familiar with operations.

Delta Air Lines Inc., the only airline operating a U.S. refinery, is carrying out a turnaround on a crude unit and isocracker at its Trainer, Pennsylvania site. An isocracker is a unit that converts heavy feedstocks into high-quality middle distillates and lube oil base stocks.

The two plants, which both service the central Atlantic market, can process a combined 370,000 barrels a day, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The 3-2-1 crack spread in the New York Harbor, based on Brent oil in Europe, dropped 16 cents to $9.13 a barrel, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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