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Nat gas to EUA correlation will likely switch to negative in 2026/27 onward

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Historically positive Nat gas to EUA correlation will likely switch to negative in 2026/27 onward

Bjarne Schieldrop, Chief analyst commodities, SEB
Bjarne Schieldrop, Chief analyst commodities, SEB

Historically there has been a strong, positive correlation between EUAs and nat gas prices. That correlation is still fully intact and possibly even stronger than ever as traders increasingly takes this correlation as a given with possible amplification through trading action.

The correlation broke down in 2022 as nat gas prices went ballistic but overall the relationship has been very strong for quite a few years.

The correlation between nat gas and EUAs should be positive as long as there is a dynamical mix of coal and gas in EU power sector and the EUA market is neither too tight nor too weak:

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Nat gas price UP  => ”you go black” by using more coal => higher emissions => EUA price UP

But in the future we’ll go beyond the dynamically capacity to flex between nat gas and coal. As the EUA price moves yet higher along with a tightening carbon market the dynamical coal to gas flex will max out. The EUA price will then trade significantly above where this flex technically will occur. There will still be quite a few coal fired power plants running since they are needed for grid stability and supply amid constrained local grids.

As it looks now we still have such overall coal to gas flex in 2024 and partially in 2025, but come 2026 it could be all maxed out. At least if we look at implied pricing on the forward curves where the forward EUA price for 2026 and 2027 are trading way above technical coal to gas differentials. The current forward pricing implications matches well with what we theoretically expect to see as the EUA market gets tighter and marginal abatement moves from the power sector to the industrial sector. The EUA price should then trade up and way above the technical coal to gas differentials. That is also what we see in current forward prices for 2026 and 2027.

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The correlation between nat gas and EUAs should then (2026/27 onward) switch from positive to negative. What is left of coal in the power mix will then no longer be dynamically involved versus nat gas and EUAs. The overall power price will then be ruled by EUA prices, nat gas prices and renewable penetration. There will be pockets with high cost power in the geographical points where there are no other alternatives than coal.

The EUA price is an added cost of energy as long as we consume fossil energy. Thus both today and in future years we’ll have the following as long as we consume fossil energy:

EUA price UP => Pain for consumers of energy => lower energy consumption, faster implementation of energy efficiency and renewable energy  => lower emissions 

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The whole idea with the EUA price is after all that emissions goes down when the EUA price goes up. Either due to reduced energy consumption directly, accelerated energy efficiency measures or faster switch to renewable energy etc.

Let’s say that the coal to gas flex is maxed out with an EUA price way above the technical coal to gas differentials in 2026/27 and later. If the nat gas price then goes up it will no longer be an option to ”go black” and use more coal as the distance to that is too far away price vise due to a tight carbon market and a high EUA price. We’ll then instead have that:

Nat gas higher => higher energy costs with pain for consumers => weaker nat gas / energy demand & stronger drive for energy efficiency implementation & stronger drive for more non-fossil energy => lower emissions => EUA price lower 

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And if nat gas prices goes down it will give an incentive to consume more nat gas and thus emit more CO2:

Cheaper nat gas => Cheaper energy costs altogether, higher energy and nat gas consumption, less energy efficiency implementations in the broader economy => emissions either goes up or falls slower than before => EUA price UP 

Historical and current positive correlation between nat gas and EUA prices should thus not at all be taken for granted for ever and we do expect this correlation to switch to negative some time in 2026/27.

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In the UK there is hardly any coal left at all in the power mix. There is thus no option to ”go black” and burn more coal if the nat gas price goes up. A higher nat gas price will instead inflict pain on consumers of energy and lead to lower energy consumption, lower nat gas consumption and lower emissions on the margin. There is still some positive correlation left between nat gas and UKAs but it is very weak and it could relate to correlations between power prices in the UK and the continent as well as some correlations between UKAs and EUAs.

Correlation of daily changes in front month EUA prices and front-year TTF nat gas prices, 250dma correlation.

Correlation of daily changes in front month EUA prices and front-year TTF nat gas prices
Source: SEB graph and calculations, Blbrg data

EUA price vs front-year TTF nat gas price since March 2023

EUA price vs front-year TTF nat gas price since March 2023
Source: SEB graph, Blbrg data

Front-month EUA price vs regression function of EUA price vs. nat gas derived from data from Apr to Nov last year.

Front-month EUA price vs regression function of EUA price vs. nat gas derived from data from Apr to Nov last year.
Source: SEB graph and calculation

The EUA price vs the UKA price. Correlations previously, but not much any more.

The EUA price vs the UKA price. Correlations previously, but not much any more.
Source: SEB graph, Blbrg data

Forward German power prices versus clean cost of coal and clean cost of gas power. Coal is totally priced out vs power and nat gas on a forward 2026/27 basis.

Forward German power prices versus clean cost of coal and clean cost of gas power. Coal is totally priced out vs power and nat gas on a forward 2026/27 basis.
Source: SEB calculations and graph, Blbrg data

Forward price of EUAs versus technical level where dynamical coal to gas flex typically takes place. EUA price for 2026/27 is at a level where there is no longer any price dynamical interaction or flex between coal and nat gas. The EUA price should/could then start to be negatively correlated to nat gas.

Forward price of EUAs versus technical level
Source: SEB calculations and graph, Blbrg data

Forward EAU price vs. BNEF base model run (look for new update will come in late April), SEB’s EUA price forecast.

Forward EAU price vs. BNEF base model run
Source: SEB graph and calculations, Blbrg data

Analys

German solar power prices are collapsing as market hits solar saturation

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German solar power producers got a price haircut of 87% over the past 10 days. German solar power producers have over the past 10 days received a volume weighted power price of only EUR 9.1/MWh. The average power price during non-solar-power-hours was in comparison EUR 70.6/MWh. Solar power producers thus got an 87% cut in the power price they get when they produce vs. the power price during non-solar-power-hours. This is what happens to power prices when the volume of unregulated power becomes equally big or bigger than demand: Prices collapse when unregulated power produces the most.

Bjarne Schieldrop, Chief analyst commodities, SEB
Bjarne Schieldrop, Chief analyst commodities, SEB

Massive growth in solar power installations in Germany in 2023 is leading to destruction of solar hour prices and solar profitability. Germany installed a record 14,280 MW of solar power capacity According to ’PV Magazine International’. That is close to twice as much as in 2022. Total installed solar capacity reached 81.7 GW at the end of 2023 according to ’Renewables Now’. Average German demand load was in comparison 52.2 GW. So total solar capacity reached almost 30 GW above average demand. Solar power produces the most during summer when demand is lower. The overshoot is thus much larger than the 30 GW mentioned when it matters.

The collapse in solar-hour-power-prices implies a collapse in solar power producer earnings unless the earnings of the installations are secured with subsidies or by PPAs. It also means that there is a sharp reduction in the earnings potential for new solar power projects. The exponential growth in new installations of solar capacity we have seen to date is likely to come to an abrupt halt. There is however most likely still a large range of solar power projects under construction in Germany which will be finalized before growth in new capacity comes to a halt. The problem of solar power production curbs (you are not allowed to produce at all) and solar power price destruction is likely to escalate yet higher before new growth in supply comes to a halt. 

Focus will now shift from solar production capacity growth to grid improvements, batteries and adaptive demand. All consumers are of course happy for cheap power as long as they are able to consume it when it is cheap. At the moment they can’t. But the incentive to be inventive is now super high. The focus will now likely shift from solar power production growth to grids, batteries, adaptive demand and all possible ways to utilize ”free power”. This will over time exhaust the availability of ”free power” and drive solar-hour-power-prices back up. This again will then eventually open for renewed growth in solar power capacity growth.

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It is probably much worse down in the grid. What is worth noting is that these numbers are for all of Germany average. Solar power congestion is much worse in the local grids all around Germany along with local grid capacity constraints ect.

The problem of solar power is high concentration of production: 80% of German solar production was produced during 22.3% of the hours in the year in 2023. What is also worth mentioning is that solar power production is extremely concentrated in relatively few hours per year. It produces in the middle of the day and during summer. In 2023 German solar power produced 80% of its production in only 22.3% of the hours of the year. This basically implies that once solar power production reaches 22.3% of total power supply (without batteries), then solar-hour-power-prices will likely collapse. Solar power production reached 55 TWh in 2023. That’s a lot but it is still only 12% of total demand of 458 TWh in 2023. What it means is that the acute problem of solar-hour-power-price-destruction sets in much before the ”theoretical 22.3%” mentioned above.

On the 21 Feb 2024 we wrote the following note on this issue: ”The self-destructive force of unregulated solar power” where we highlighted these issues and warned that this will likely be a process of ”First gradually. Then suddenly”.

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German solar power capacity makes a big leap upwards in 2023 as the energy crisis hurt everybody. Demand went down. Now there is a large overcapacity in installed solar effect vs. demand load.

German solar power capacity makes a big leap upwards in 2023 as the energy crisis hurt everybody. Demand went down. Now there is a large overcapacity in installed solar effect vs. demand load.
Source: SEB calculations and graph, PV Magazine, Wikipedia, Blberg data on German power demand

German solar power producers got an 87% price haircut on average during last 10 days vs. those who produced during non-solar-power hours.

German solar power producers got an 87% price haircut on average during last 10 days vs. those who produced during non-solar-power hours.
Source: SEB calculations and graph, data by Blbrg

Volume weighted solar power prices vs. non-solar-hours. Bigger and bigger discount.

Volume weighted solar power prices vs. non-solar-hours. Bigger and bigger discount.
Source:  SEB calculations and graph, data by Blbrg

Volume weighted solar power prices vs. non-solar-hours. Bigger and bigger discount.

Volume weighted solar power prices vs. non-solar-hours. Bigger and bigger discount.
Source: SEB calculations and graph, data by Blbrg

Solar power production and German power prices over the past 10 days.

Solar power production and German power prices over the past 10 days.
Source: SEB calculations and graph, data by Blbrg

Solar power production and German power prices on 27 April 2024.

Solar power production and German power prices on 27 April 2024.
Source:  SEB calculations and graph, data by Blbrg
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Analys

Firm at $85

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SEB - analysbrev på råvaror

This week, Brent Crude prices have strengthened by USD 1.2 per barrel since Monday’s opening. While macroeconomic concerns persist, market reactions have been subdued, with price fluctuations primarily driven by fundamental factors. Currently, the oil price stands at its weekly high of USD 84.4 per barrel, with Wednesday’s low recorded at USD 81.7 per barrel, indicating relatively normal price movements throughout the week.

Ole R. Hvalbye, Analyst Commodities, SEB
Ole R. Hvalbye, Analyst Commodities, SEB

The upward trajectory since Wednesday afternoon can be attributed to two main factors:

Firstly, Wednesday’s US inventory report, though mixed, conveyed a bullish sentiment to the market due to an overall decline in commercial inventories. The report from the US Department of Energy (DOE) revealed a draw in US crude inventories of 1.4 million barrels last week, surpassing consensus estimates of a 2.0-million-barrel draw –  the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) forecast of a 0.5-million-barrel build on Tuesday.

Additionally, a marginal improvement in refinery margins hints at healthier demand prospects leading up to the driving season. While commercial crude oil inventories (excluding Strategic Petroleum Reserve) decreased, standing approximately 3% below the five-year average for this period, total gasoline inventories saw a notable increase of 0.9 million barrels compared to the consensus forecast of a decrease of 1.1 million barrels. Distillate fuel inventories experienced a more moderate increase in line with expectations, rising by 0.6 million barrels but remaining approximately 7% below the five-year average. Overall, total inventories (crude + gasoline + distillate) showed a marginal increase of 0.1 million barrels, coupled with a 1% improvement in refinery utilization to 88.5% last week (see pages 11 and 18 attached).

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The substantial draw in commercial crude inventories, particularly compared to the typical seasonal build, has emerged as a key price driver (see page 12 attached).

Secondly, the third consecutive day of oil price gains can be attributed to renewed optimism regarding US rate cuts, supported by positive US jobs data suggesting potential Federal Reserve rate cuts this year. This optimism has boosted risk assets and weakened the dollar, rendering commodities more appealing to buyers.

In a broader context, crude oil prices have been moderating since early last month amidst easing tensions in the Middle East. Attention is also focused on OPEC+, with Russia, a key member, exceeding production targets ahead of the cartel’s upcoming meeting. Expectations are widespread for an extension of output cuts during the next meeting.

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Conversely, providing support to global crude prices is the Biden administration’s intention to increase the price ceiling for refilling US strategic petroleum reserves to as much as USD 79.99 per barrel.

With geopolitical tensions relatively subdued, but lingering, the market remains vigilant in analyzing data and fundamentals. Our outlook for oil prices at USD 85 per barrel for 2024 remains firm and attainable for the foreseeable future.

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Analys

Diesel concerns drags Brent lower but OPEC+ will still get the price it wants in Q3

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Brent rallied 2.5% last week on bullish inventories and bullish backdrop. Brent crude gained 2.5% last week with a close of the week of USD 89.5/b which also was the highest close of the week. The bullish drivers were: 1) Commercial crude and product stocks declined 3.8 m b versus a normal seasonal rise of 4.4 m b, 2) Solid gains in front-end Brent crude time-spreads indicating a tight crude market, and 3) A positive backdrop of a 2.7% gain in US S&P 500 index.

Bjarne Schieldrop, Chief analyst commodities, SEB
Bjarne Schieldrop, Chief analyst commodities, SEB

Brent falling back 1% on diesel concerns this morning. But positive backdrop may counter it later. This morning Brent crude is pulling back 0.9% to USD 88.7/b counter to the fact that the general backdrop is positive with a weaker USD, equity gains both in Asia and in European and US futures and not the least also positive gains in industrial metals with copper trading up 0.4% at USD 10 009/ton. This overall positive market backdrop clearly has the potential to reverse the initial bearish start of the week as we get a little further into the Monday trading session.

Diesel concerns at center stage. The bearish angle on oil this morning is weak diesel demand with diesel forward curves in front-end contango and predictions for lower refinery runs in response this down the road. I.e. that the current front-end strength in crude curves (elevated backwardation) reflecting a current tight crude market will dissipate in not too long due to likely lower refinery runs. 

But gasoline cracks have rallied. Diesel weakness is normal this time of year. Overall refining margin still strong. Lots of focus on weakness in diesel demand and cracks. But we need to remember that we saw the same weakness last spring in April and May before the diesel cracks rallied into the rest of the year. Diesel cracks are also very seasonal with natural winter-strength and likewise natural summer weakness. What matters for refineries is of course the overall refining margin reflecting demand for all products. Gasoline cracks have rallied to close to USD 24/b in ARA for the front-month contract. If we compute a proxy ARA refining margin consisting of 40% diesel, 40% gasoline and 20% bunkeroil we get a refining margin of USD 14/b which is way above the 2015-19 average of only USD 6.5/b. This does not take into account the now much higher costs to EU refineries of carbon prices and nat gas prices. So the picture is a little less rosy than what the USD 14/b may look like.

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The Russia/Ukraine oil product shock has not yet fully dissipated. What stands out though is that the oil product shock from the Russian war on Ukraine has dissipated significantly, but it is still clearly there. Looking at below graphs on oil product cracks the Russian attack on Ukraine stands out like day and night in February 2022 and oil product markets have still not fully normalized.

Oil market gazing towards OPEC+ meeting in June. OPEC+ will adjust to get the price they want. Oil markets are increasingly gazing towards the OPEC+ meeting in June when the group will decide what to do with production in Q3-24. Our view is that the group will adjust production as needed to gain the oil price it wants which typically is USD 85/b or higher. This is probably also the general view in the market.

Change in US oil inventories was a bullish driver last week.

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Change in US oil inventories was a bullish driver last week.
Source: SEB calculations and graph, Blbrg data, US EIA

Crude oil time-spreads strengthened last week

Crude oil time-spreads strengthened last week
Source:  SEB calculations and graph, Blbrg data

ICE gasoil forward curve has shifted from solid backwardation to front-end contango signaling diesel demand weakness. Leading to concerns for lower refinery runs and softer crude oil demand by refineries down the road.

ICE gasoil forward curve
Source: Blbrg

ARA gasoline crack has rallied towards while Gasoil crack has fallen back. Not a totally unusual pattern.

ARA gasoline crack has rallied towards while Gasoil crack has fallen back. Not a totally unusual pattern.
Source:  SEB calculations and graph, Blbrg data

Proxy ARA refining margin with 40% gasoil crack, 40% gasoline crack and 20% bunker oil crack.

Proxy ARA refining margin with 40% gasoil crack, 40% gasoline crack and 20% bunker oil crack.
Source:  SEB calculations and graph, Blbrg data

ARA diesel cracks saw the exact same pattern last year. Dipping low in April and May before rallying into the second half of the year. Diesel cracks have fallen back but are still clearly above normal levels both in spot and on the forward curve. I.e. the ”Russian diesel stress” hasn’t fully dissipated quite yet.

ARA diesel cracks
Source:  SEB calculations and graph, Blbrg data

Net long specs fell back a little last week.

Net long specs fell back a little last week.
Source:  SEB calculations and graph, Blbrg data

52-week ranking of net long speculative positions in Brent and WTI as well as 52-week ranking of the strength of the Brent 1-7 mth backwardation

52-week ranking of net long speculative positions in Brent and WTI as well as 52-week ranking of the strength of the Brent 1-7 mth backwardation
Source:  SEB calculations and graph, Blbrg data
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