Category Archives: diesel fuel prices

Fuel Flash – March 2020

Oil prices began to show some potential to recover in early February following their sharp drop in January.  However, by the middle of the month, another sharp decline occurred with prices closing February just under $45 per barrel.  Oil prices have now fallen almost 27% since the beginning of the year and are about 22% lower than the same time last year.  The following graph shows the daily price movements over the past three months:

The rapid decline which started during the second half of January was caused by the Coronavirus outbreak.  As February began, optimism towards containment of the virus stabilized prices and they moved upwards.  However, by mid-February, new cases of the virus appeared in parts of the world that were not previously impacted, including a few cases with no clear connection to explain how it spread.  Fear grew about the contagiousness of the virus resulting in a reduction of global travel and economic activity.  As a result, prices dropped rapidly along with financial markets around the world.

Due to the significant decline during February, the overall average price for oil fell even further compared to January.  Significant declines also occurred for refined products.  The graphs below show the movement of crude oil (converted to gallons) along with wholesale and retail fuel prices over the trailing 15 months:

For refined fuels, retail prices did not show much change during the previous month but did start to fall in February.  The decline for diesel lagged wholesale while gas was quicker to catch up.  The result was that retail margins for diesel continued to increase to a very high level while gas margins declined toward a more typical range.  The following graph shows the retail margins over the trailing 15 months: 

Future oil prices will continue to be heavily dependent on developments with the Coronavirus.  As the spread of the virus appears to be widening, future global economic activity and the demand for oil will continue to decline.  Sokolis Group believes oil prices will likely remain in the $40 -$50 range for the foreseeable future until the spread of the virus declines.  Although OPEC+ is considering further reductions to their supply output to keep prices from declining much further, it may not be enough to offset the large reduction in demand caused by the spread of the virus.

If you’re concerned about the impact of future fuel price changes for your fleet and want to know if you’re receiving the best fuel prices possible, contact Conor Proud at Sokolis Group, cproud@sokolisgroup.com or 267-482-6159.  We are the nation’s leading independent fuel management consulting team and can help you make sure that your fuel management program is running at peak efficiency. 

Fuel Flash – February 2020

Oil prices dropped sharply and unexpectedly in two stages during January.  Prices declined by 16% from the start of the year to close January just above $51 per barrel.  The following graph shows the daily price movements over the past three months:

The dramatic decline in January followed a tense period in December with rising oil prices.  Near the end of 2019, the US and Iran appeared to be moving toward a major military confrontation following the US’ assassination of one of Iran’s top military generals.  2020 began with anticipation that Iran would retaliate against the US leading to a potential all-out war in the Middle East.  However, Iran’s actual retaliation in early January was significantly less than expected, providing an opportunity for both sides to scale back tensions.  Oil prices reacted to the decreased risk of supply disruptions by falling rapidly during the first half of January.

Shortly after prices began to settle at a lower level during the middle of January, the next rapid decline began.  The cause of this decline was highly unusual; the Coronavirus outbreak originating in China.  The number of cases of the virus, along with the death toll, continued to increase in China during January.  In addition, outbreaks in other countries started to emerge.  Significant travel restrictions were implemented in China during a major holiday travel period, while other parts of the world also started to limit travel to contain the spread of the virus.  Oil prices, along with other financial market indexes, fell rapidly as future economic activity and demand for oil were anticipated to be much lower due to these limitations.

As a result of the rapid decline throughout January, the overall average price for oil fell compared to December.  Wholesale prices for refined products also fell while retail prices remained flat.  The graphs below show the movement of crude oil (converted to gallons) along with wholesale and retail fuel prices over the trailing 15 months:

For the refined fuels, retail prices barely moved which is typical during periods of rapid wholesale declines.  The result was that retail margins increased, particularly for diesel.  The following graph shows the retail margins over the trailing 15 months: 

Any prediction for where oil prices may go over the next few months depends heavily on progress to contain the Coronavirus.  Sokolis Group believes oil prices will likely remain in the low-$50’s with the potential to fall into the high-$40’s for a short period.  This assumes there are no other significant developments that negatively impact supply and cause prices to spike.  When new cases of the virus appear to have peaked, and optimism returns regarding travel and economic activity, oil prices should begin to recover their losses.  Increasing oil prices would typically not be a welcome change for fleets, but in this unique situation, it would be a positive sign from a humanitarian perspective.

If you’re concerned about the impact of future fuel price changes for your fleet and want to know if you’re receiving the best fuel prices possible, contact Conor Proud at Sokolis Group, cproud@sokolisgroup.com or 267-482-6159.  We are the nation’s leading independent fuel management consulting team and can help you make sure that your fuel management program is running at peak efficiency. 

Fuel Flash – January 2020

Oil prices continued climbing higher throughout December, gaining over 10% to close the month and year at $61 per barrel.  Over the past year, oil increased by more than 33%.  The following graph shows the daily price movements over the past three months:

During December, two primary factors caused oil prices to move higher.  The first, during early December, was a surprise announcement from OPEC regarding their agreement to make deeper cuts in production.  The second, near the middle of the month, was an announcement that the US and China had reached a phase-one agreement toward resolving their trade war.  The anticipated supply reductions by OPEC combined with the renewed optimism toward global trade activity drove prices above the $60 mark.  The last time prices reached $60 was briefly during mid-September following an attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil production facilities.

Although December’s overall average price for oil increased compared to November, prices for refined fuels did not follow.  One of the main reasons fuel prices did not move up was because refining margins, commonly measured as the “crack spread,” declined which is typical during this time of year.  The 3:2:1 crack spread is based on producing two barrels of gas along with one barrel of diesel for every three barrels of oil.  The following graph shows the spread over the trailing 15 months:

Since diesel demand is typically strong during the colder months of the year, prices barely changed as the higher oil prices were offset by the lower crack spread.  However, gas prices declined modestly due to the combination of the reduced spread and slower demand during the colder months of the year.  The graphs below show the movement of crude oil (converted to gallons) along with wholesale and retail fuel prices over the trailing 15 months:

For both refined fuels, wholesale and retail prices moved similarly.  As a result, margins were relatively unchanged and continued to run at their typical levels.  The following graph shows the margins for over the trailing 15 months: 

As we begin 2020, Sokolis Group anticipates oil prices will continue to trade in the low- to mid-$60’s with greater potential to increase rather than fall back towards the $50’s.  Political and military conflicts are always a wildcard that can cause prices to spike at any time.  As we ended last year, air strikes were conducted by the US in Iraq and Syria.  These were followed by protesters storming the US embassy in Iraq as the US blamed Iran for stoking the tensions.  And most recently, a US drone strike killed one of Iran’s most senior military leaders as he traveled in Iraq.  Iran has vowed military retaliation.  As the tensions continue to rapidly rise in the Middle East, the risk of fuel supply disruptions also increases and may drive prices higher.

Additional supporting factors for rising prices include OPEC’s deeper production cuts, although the impact remains to be seen, particularly with compliance levels.  Also, continued progress toward unwinding the US-China trade war is anticipated to take place as the phase-one agreement is scheduled to be signed mid-January.  Finally, we should begin to see the true impact of the IMO 2020 maritime fuel transition which went into effect on January 1st and is expected to increase the demand for oil and diesel fuel. 

If you’re concerned about the impact of future fuel price changes for your fleet and want to know if you’re receiving the best fuel prices possible, contact Conor Proud at Sokolis Group, cproud@sokolisgroup.com or 267-482-6159.  We are the nation’s leading independent fuel management consulting team and can help you make sure that your fuel management program is running at peak efficiency. 

Fuel Flash – December 2019

Oil prices slowly climbed higher throughout November but gave back most of their gains at the end of the month.  Prices opened the month near $54 and closed just over $55 per barrel.  The following graph shows the daily price movements over the past three months:

There were no significant developments in November that drove prices gradually higher.  The main reason was attributable to cautious optimism that the US and China would reach a Phase 1 agreement toward resolving their trade war.  However, prices sank at the very end of the month as President Trump signed a bill supporting pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong in defiance to China’s threats of retaliation.  Oil traders worried that any resolution to the continuing trade war would become less likely than previously anticipated.  As a result, the outlook turned pessimistic for future economic growth and demand for oil.

Despite the decline in prices at the very end of the month, November’s overall average price for oil increased slightly compared to October.  Average wholesale and retail prices for diesel also increased slightly as demand remained strong.  Meanwhile, gas wholesale and retail prices declined slightly as demand slowed.  The graphs below show the movement of crude oil (converted to gallons) along with wholesale and retail fuel prices over the trailing 15 months:

Since retail and wholesale prices for diesel and gas moved in sync, margins were relatively unchanged.  For both fuels, retail margins continue to run at their typical levels.  The following graph shows the margins for over the trailing 15 months: 

As we wind down 2019 and look forward the start of 2020, Sokolis Group anticipates oil prices will continue to trade in the mid-$50’s with the potential to move toward $60 or more per barrel.  The biggest drag on any price increases continues to be the US-China trade war.  Mid-December will bring a significant indication of any progress as additional tariffs are scheduled to go into effect but could be called off.  Oil prices will be very sensitive to this decision. 

In addition, OPEC and Russia will meet in December to discuss the possibility of making deeper production cuts to support higher prices.  It is likely they will not take any further action until 2020 is underway but a surprise move to lower production would likely cause prices to increase.  Another factor that has not fully impacted prices yet is the IMO 2020 maritime fuel transition which takes effect on January 1st.  Demand for oil and diesel fuel is expected to increase from IMO 2020 while demand for heating oil (essentially diesel fuel) will be increasing during the colder months.

If you’re concerned about the impact of future fuel price changes for your fleet and want to know if you’re receiving the best fuel prices possible, contact Conor Proud at Sokolis Group, cproud@sokolisgroup.com or 267-482-6159.  We are the nation’s leading independent fuel management consulting team and can help you make sure that your fuel management program is running at peak efficiency. 

Winter Fuel Tips

SOKOLIS GROUP WINTER FUEL TIPS

  • Replace fuel filters at manufacturer recommended intervals.  Particles in the filter make it easier for wax to gel.  Use the highest OEM accepted micron filter possible.
  • Keep your fuel tanks full and free of water.  Cold air on top of warm fuel creates condensation.  This can be reduced by limiting the amount of space in your tanks.
  • Test any bulk tanks for water.  Water freezes faster than the wax in the fuel.  If your fuel has 100 ppm or higher water content, it should be treated with a drying agent.
  • Drain fuel water separators weekly and be sure to monitor them even between scheduled maintenance.
  • Open the drain at the bottom of the fuel tanks to drain off any water &/or sediment.
  • If your vehicle is going to be idle for long periods of time (4 hours or more) you may want to install a fuel heater or find heated parking.  Moving liquid takes longer to freeze than stationary liquids.  Keep your fuel moving or keep it warm.
  • Tighten all fuel tank mountings and brackets. At the same time, check the seal in the fuel tank cap, the breather hole in the cap, and the condition of the flexible fuel lines.  Repair or replace the parts, as necessary.
  • After your vehicle has been off the road for an extended period, start and let the engine idle for 30 or more minutes allowing warm fuel to return to the fuel tanks to break up any wax buildup.

DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) and cold weather

  • DEF is required to remain pure to operate correctly.  Additives should never be added to DEF.
  • DEF freezes at 12 degrees F.  The 32.5% urea concentration in DEF allows both the urea and water to thaw at the same rate, therefore keeping the solution from being diluted or over concentrated.
  • SCR systems are designed to provide heating to the supply tanks and lines during normal operation.  If the DEF freezes when the vehicle is idle, normal start-up and operation will not be inhibited.  The DEF will thaw as the vehicle is operated.  Freezing and thawing will not degrade the product.

If you need additional help or suggestions on your winter fuel program, please contact Conor Proud at 267-482-6159 or cproud@sokolisgroup.com.  For further help with your fuel management program or to lower your fuel cost, visit us at www.SokolisGroup.com.

Fuel Flash – November 2019

Oil prices traded in a very narrow range during most of October following a short period of significant volatility during September.  October’s prices opened and closed the month at just over $54 per barrel.  The following graph shows the daily price movements over the past three months:

September’s volatility was caused by an attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil refining facilities during the middle of the month.  Prices spiked immediately following the attack.  However, concerns about supply disruptions in the Middle East quickly abated when it became clear that a retaliatory military response would not occur.  The refinery that was attacked was also able to resume limited production in a relatively short time. 

As tensions lowered, prices declined through the last half of September and remained in the low $50’s for most of October.  There were few developments in October to impact prices until the last week of the month.  During that time, prices showed modest growth as OPEC indicated it would consider the possibility of making deeper productions cuts to help support higher prices.  In addition, US oil inventory levels declined unexpectedly after an extended period of increases.  The bump in prices lost momentum as the unresolved US-China trade war continued to limit optimism about future global economic activity and its related demand for oil.

Due to the way prices declined during the last half of September while remaining lower through October, overall average prices for oil decreased slightly.  Despite the decline, average wholesale and retail prices for diesel increased slightly as demand remained strong.  Meanwhile, gas wholesale prices were flat while retail prices increased.  The increase in the gas retail average was primarily influenced by supply disruptions on the West Coast as several refineries dealt with maintenance issues.  The graphs below show the movement of crude oil (converted to gallons) along with wholesale and retail fuel prices over the trailing 15 months:  

Since retail and wholesale prices for diesel moved in sync, margins were relatively unchanged.  For gas, retail margins increased modestly as retailers found opportunities to increase their prices slightly while wholesale prices remain flat.  For both fuels, retail margins continue to be at more typical levels although gas margins are on the higher end of their usual range.  The following graph shows the margins for over the trailing 15 months: 

Looking toward the remainder of the year through the start of 2020, Sokolis Group continues to anticipate that oil prices will climb back to $60 or more per barrel.  As we have previously noted, there are multiple factors that support rising prices even before considering the possibility of future conflicts in the Middle East.  Prices could be driven higher as oil inventories have recently shown a declining trend while OPEC and Russia are considering deeper production cuts.  In addition, the deadline for the IMO 2020 maritime fuel transition is approaching which is anticipated to increase demand for oil and diesel fuel. 

It’s also important to consider that even if oil prices do not increase significantly over the next few months, wholesale and retail prices for refined fuels could still increase, particularly for diesel.  The margin between the cost of oil versus the wholesale cost of refined fuels is commonly measured as the “crack spread.”  The 3:2:1 crack spread is based on producing two barrels of gas along with one barrel of diesel for every three barrels of oil.  The following graph shows the 3:2:1 trend over the trailing 15 months:

The trend shown above reflects some variation, but the spread has been running higher since the spring of this year.  Generally, the spread can be driven higher when demand for fuels increases while refining and distributing capacity is limited.  This can occur due to unexpected disruptions to refineries and distribution networks which often result from storms and fires as we have recently seen.  Planned disruptions also take place, such as during this time of year when refineries typically shut down for short periods to perform preventive maintenance tasks while also shifting production for winter blends of gasoline. 

As mentioned above, demand for diesel fuel is expected to increase from IMO 2020 while demand for heating oil (essentially diesel fuel) will be increasing during the colder months.  Therefore, in addition to our view that the underlying price of oil is likely to increase, we also believe greater demand for diesel will cause the crack spread to increase.  The result will be higher fuel prices for the foreseeable future.

If you’re concerned about the impact of future fuel price changes for your fleet and want to know if you’re receiving the best fuel prices possible, contact Conor Proud at Sokolis Group, cproud@sokolisgroup.com or 267-482-6159.  We are the nation’s leading independent fuel management consulting team and can help you make sure that your fuel management program is running at peak efficiency. 

Fuel Flash – October 2019

September had a volatile period for oil prices following a relatively stable stretch for most of August.  The month opened with prices near $55 per barrel but sharply increased to over $62 during mid-September.  Shortly after the spike, prices quickly fell back to the mid-$50’s and remained in that range.  By the end of the month, prices closed just over $54, roughly where the month began.  The following graph shows the daily price movements over the past three months:

In early September, prices started climbing modestly as OPEC reaffirmed their production cuts through the end of the year.  Then, a rapid and significant increase in prices occurred during the middle of the month following a missile and drone attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil refining facilities, attributed to rising tensions with Iran.  Concerns about escalating military action in the Middle East in retaliation for the attack along with expectations of a major disruption to oil supplies caused the spike in prices.  The Saudi facilities had been producing approximately 5% of the world’s oil and initial estimates of the damage indicated it would take many months to restore full operations.  

Although it appeared that prices might continue climbing after the attack, they quickly began to decline when a military response did not occur despite continuing accusations of blaming Iran and high tensions in the region.  In addition, Saudi Arabia reported they were able to quickly restore a large amount of production capability and claimed that full operations would resume within weeks. 

As a result of the events in September, overall average prices for oil and wholesale fuels increased compared in August.  However, diesel retail prices remained flat while gas retail prices continued their slow decline that began in the spring.  The graphs below show the movement of crude oil (converted to gallons) along with wholesale and retail fuel prices over the trailing 15 months:  

Since retail prices for diesel were relatively unchanged while wholesale prices increased, retail margins for diesel decreased.  Retail prices and margins for diesel had been relatively high over the past few months so the increase in wholesale prices was essentially absorbed at the retail level as merchants sacrificed their unusually high margins.  For gas, retail margins also decreased as average retail prices continued their slow decline while wholesale prices remained relatively stable.  For both fuels, retail margins have returned to more typical levels.  The following graph shows the margins for over the trailing 15 months: 

Looking toward the remainder of the year, Sokolis Group continues to anticipate that oil prices will climb back to $60 or more per barrel.  The ongoing tensions in the Middle East certainly create the possibility of even higher price spikes.  There have also been some reports doubting the Saudi’s ability to fully restore production as quickly as they have indicated which could tighten supplies as inventory levels decline. 

As we have previously noted, there are several additional factors that support rising prices; OPEC and Russia have extended their production cuts through the end of the year, and possibly into 2020, in their effort to tighten supply.  Plus, face-to-face negotiations toward resolving the US-China trade conflict are scheduled for October.  Lastly, the deadline for the IMO 2020 maritime fuel transition is approaching which is anticipated to increase demand for oil and diesel fuel. 

If you’re concerned about the impact of future fuel price changes for your fleet and want to know if you’re receiving the best fuel prices possible, contact Conor Proud at Sokolis Group, cproud@sokolisgroup.com or 267-482-6159.  We are the nation’s leading independent fuel management consulting team and can help you make sure that your fuel management program is running at peak efficiency. 

Fuel Flash – September 2019

August opened with oil prices just over $58 per barrel but they fell sharply during the first week of the month.  By the 7th of the month, prices hit their lowest point at $51 and then started to rebound.  For the remainder of the month, prices traded in a narrow range near $55 which is where the month finally closed.  The following graph shows the daily price movements over the past three months:

Within a few days following the start of August, prices rapidly declined after an unexpected burst of friction between the US and China regarding their trade dispute.  Oil prices and financial markets plummeted based on a renewed pessimistic outlook for future global economic activity and demand for oil.  Although prices rebounded shortly after the decline, the following two weeks reflected little change.  By the last week of August, prices found some support as oil inventory levels showed a large decline.  In addition, the tone between the US and China began to soften ahead of face-to-face talks scheduled for September.

Overall average prices for oil and wholesale fuels declined in August compared to July.  Diesel retail prices continued a slow decline that began in May.  Gas retail prices fell slightly slower than the wholesale decline.  The graphs below show the movement of crude oil (converted to gallons) along with wholesale and retail fuel prices over the trailing 15 months:  

Due to the way average wholesale prices decreased a bit slower than retail, margins increased modestly and remained at relatively high levels during August.  The following graph shows retail margins for diesel and gas over the trailing 15 months: 

Despite the decrease in oil and fuel prices during August, Sokolis Group continues to anticipate that oil prices will reach $60 or more per barrel as we look across the remainder of the year.  Although the chances of resolving the US-China trade conflict had been fading, any progress toward reaching a deal will support rising prices.  And, we believe it is more likely there will be some progress over the next few months rather than a total collapse in negotiations. 

Other factors continue to support rising prices including ongoing tensions in the Middle East with Iran.  Also, OPEC and Russia have extended their production cuts through the end of the year, and possibly into 2020, in their effort to tighten supply and support prices.  Lastly, the deadline for the IMO 2020 maritime fuel transition is approaching which is anticipated to increase demand for oil and diesel fuel. 

If you’re concerned about the impact of future fuel price changes for your fleet and want to know if you’re receiving the best fuel prices possible, contact Conor Proud at Sokolis Group, cproud@sokolisgroup.com or 267-482-6159.  We are the nation’s leading independent fuel management consulting team and can help you make sure that your fuel management program is running at peak efficiency. 

Fuel Flash – August 2019

The month of July opened with oil prices approaching $60 per barrel.  By the 10th of the month, prices climbed slightly over $60 and remained at that level for a few days.  However, prices fell back to the mid-$50’s as the second half of the month started.  Prices subsequently traded in a narrow range near $56 during the last 10 days of the month but finally closed the month over $58.  The following graph shows the daily price movements over the past three months:

The start of July followed a significant increase in oil prices during the last half of June.  That increase was driven by political tensions in the Middle East along with optimism about the US and China agreeing to resume trade talks.  Prices lost some momentum in early July but resumed increasing as the middle of the month approached.  The increases were based on inventory levels declining along with a weak hurricane in the Gulf Coast that raised concerns about supply disruptions.

Heading into the last half of July, prices began to quickly fall toward the mid- $50’s.  The decline was attributable to several factors; the Gulf Coast storm passed without a significant impact to supplies, tensions in the Middle East were somewhat reduced, and news about China’s slowing economy indicated potentially weaker global demand for oil. 

During the last week of July, prices rose again as inventory levels continued to decline.  In addition, optimism grew regarding global economic activity and future demand for oil; the US and China began face-to-face talks to resolve their trade dispute, plus the US Federal Reserve reduced interest rates.

Average prices for oil and wholesale fuels were slightly higher in July compared to June primarily because prices had risen quickly during late June.  However, the typical lag in retail prices resulted in trends that did not reflect the underlying wholesale price movements.  Diesel retail prices continued a slow decline that began in May while gas retail prices were flat compared to the previous month.  The graphs below show the movement of crude oil (converted to gallons) along with wholesale and retail fuel prices over the trailing 15 months:  

Due to the way average wholesale prices increased in July while retail prices lagged, retail margins declined, although they were still at relatively high levels.  The following graph shows retail margins for diesel and gas over the trailing 15 months: 

As we look toward the second half of the year, Sokolis Group continues to anticipate that oil prices will reach $60 per barrel and potentially climb beyond the mid-$60’s.  As we have previously noted, prices are likely to increase based on factors that include a potential resolution of the US-China trade conflict, extended production cuts by OPEC and Russia, tensions in the Middle East, and compliance with IMO 2020. 

If you’re concerned about the impact of future fuel price changes for your fleet and want to know if you’re receiving the best fuel prices possible, contact Conor Proud at Sokolis Group, cproud@sokolisgroup.com or 267-482-6159.  We are the nation’s leading independent fuel management consulting team and can help you make sure that your fuel management program is running at peak efficiency. 

Fuel Flash – July 2019

Oil prices hovered near $53 per barrel for most of June, then quickly increased toward $60 during the last 10 days of the month.  Prices closed the month at over $58 after increasing $5 during late June, or 9%.  Overall, prices are up almost 30% since the start of the year.  The following graph shows the daily price movements over the past three months:

The start of June followed a significant decline in oil prices during the last week of May.  Prices fell sharply in May because of a pessimistic outlook for future oil demand resulting from ongoing trade tensions between the US and China along with a new US trade rift with Mexico.  In addition, oil inventories unexpectedly began increasing despite ongoing production limits implemented by OPEC and other countries attempting to balance global oil supply and demand.

As June began, a trade agreement was quickly reached between the US and Mexico but that development was not enough to support an increase in oil prices.  This positive event was offset by the lack of progress related to the US-China trade conflict along with inventory levels that continued to rise.  Even attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf during early June had little upward impact on prices.

Near the end of the 3rd week of June, two primary factors caused prices to rise rapidly; the first was an announcement that the US and Chinese leaders would meet during the G20 summit at the end of June to discuss trade.  The second factor quickly followed when news broke that Iran had shot down a US drone under questionable circumstances.  The combination of the positive development in the US-China trade conflict, which could increase demand for oil, followed by the possibility of an escalating military conflict in the Middle East, which could decrease supply, caused prices to rapidly increase.

Further support for rising prices came from news that oil inventories started declining in late June.  Additionally, an explosion and fire at a Philadelphia refinery, one of the largest on the East Coast, resulted in a decision to shut down the facility indefinitely.  The refinery was a large producer of gasoline for the Philadelphia and neighboring eastern markets and the disruption in supply elevated prices for gas in those areas.

Although prices rose quickly near the end of June, averages for the entire month were much lower than May.  The significant decline at the end of May resulted in lower prices for most of June which impacted the averages.  However, retail prices did not fall as quickly as wholesale which is typical when prices are declining quickly.  The graphs below show the movement of crude oil (converted to gallons) along with wholesale and retail fuel prices over the trailing 15 months:  

Due to the way average wholesale prices declined in June while retail prices lagged, retail margins increased significantly.  In fact, margins reach their second highest level in many years.  The following graph shows retail margins for diesel and gas over the trailing 15 months: 

As we look toward July and the second half of the year, Sokolis Group expects oil prices will reach $60 per barrel and potentially climb beyond the mid-$60’s.  Gasoline prices will continue to feel upward pressure during the remainder of the summer driving season, particularly on the East Coast, as a result of the refinery closure until alternate supply sources are normalized. 

The primary near-term driver for rising prices is news from the meeting between the leaders of the US and China at the end of June that they are taking positive steps to reengage negotiations to end their trade dispute.  In addition, OPEC and Russia have recently indicated they are considering an extension to their production cuts in order to keep supplies tight for the remainder of the year.

As we’ve previously noted, prices are also likely to begin climbing again during the second half of the year based on several contributing factors besides any potential resolution of the US-China trade conflict.  The production cuts by OPEC and Russia may start to have an impact on balancing global supply, tensions in the Middle East could worsen, and compliance with IMO 2020 requiring ships to burn cleaner fuel will increase demand for diesel fuel.

If you’re concerned about the impact of future fuel price changes for your fleet and want to know if you’re receiving the best fuel prices possible, contact Conor Proud at Sokolis Group, cproud@sokolisgroup.com or 267-482-6159.  We are the nation’s leading independent fuel management consulting team and can help you make sure that your fuel management program is running at peak efficiency.