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Refined Products

Recap:  For the first time in six months, WTI settled above $46 a barrel as U.S. production declined for the seventh straight week and as the dollar remained weak. June WTI gained 70 cents, or 1.5%, to settle at $46.03 a barrel, while June Brent, added 96 cents, or 2%, to $48.14 a barrel. 

The discount that WTI has been trading to Brent reached a two month high, as Brent continued to outpace WTI during this recent rally. The front month spread between the two blends traded at $2.15, the widest level since Feb 29 before settling at $2.11.  

May RBOB gained 1.5 cents, or 1%, to $1.581 a gallon and May heating oil  rose 4.7 cents, or 3.5%, to $1.38 a gallon.

Fundamental News:   Authorities in eastern Libya vowed to export more crude soon, two days after shipping the first cargo in defiance of a national unity government and in spite of a UN official's condemnation of such illicit sales.  The National Oil Corp expects payment within a month for its first shipment of 650,000 barrels of crude.

Separately, Libya's National Oil Corp has ambitious plans to restore output to pre-2011 levels after years of violence and disruption.  Oil output is less than 25% of the 1.6 million bpd Libya produced before Muammar Gaddafi fell in 2011.  An NOC official said at least 200,000 bpd of capacity has been damaged in attacks on oilfields in the western Sirte basin.  It may take NOC until 2017 or 2018 to bring those fields back to full capacity, if it can afford the repairs.  The first phase of a three stage recovery plan can be implemented within three months, allowing fields like El Sharara and Elephant, with a combined capacity of about 430,000 bpd to come back on stream.  Phase two covers six to eight months down the line while the final phase covers fields that will take between eight months to several years to reopen. 

The chairman and CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources, Scott Sheffield, said more US companies are beginning to use futures markets to hedge their production and reduce their ratio of debt to cash in response to the recent decline in oil prices.  

EIA data showed that US propane and propylene stocks increased for a fifth consecutive week, building by 2.3 million barrels as production set a new record high. 

An analyst at UBS said falling US production is among factors fueling speculative purchases of oil futures.  He said the oil market remains oversupplied and prices remain vulnerable to the downside in the short term. 

Gasoline stocks held independently in the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp terminal in the week ending April 21st fell by 8.61% on the week but increased by 55.83% on the year to 1.083 million tons.  Gasoil stocks fell by 0.90% on the week but increased by 24.48% on the year to 3.32 million tons while its fuel oil stocks fell by 14.58% on the week but increased by 24.63% on the year to 926,000 tons.  Naphtha stocks fell by 21.03% on the week and by 33.91% on the year to 154,000 tons while jet fuel stocks increased by 4.22% on the week and by 9.49% on the year to 692,000 tons. 

The US Commerce Department reported that GDP advanced at a 0.5% seasonally adjusted annualized rate in the first quarter.  It was the worst performance in two years.  The economy had expanded 1.4% in the fourth quarter and 2% in the third quarter.  It reported that personal consumption expanded at a 1.9% rate in the first quarter.  The price index for personal consumption expenditures increased only 0.3% from the previous quarter.  Core prices, excluding food and energy costs, increased by 2.1%. 

The US Labor Department reported that the number of initial unemployment benefit claims increased by 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 257,000 in the week ending April 23rd

Early Market Call - as of 9:30 AM EDT

WTI - June $46.52, up 49 cents

RBOB - May $1.6008, up 28 points

HO - May $1.4072, up 26 points

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Natural Gas

On Thursday, April 28th, the June NYMEX Natural Gas Futures Contracts began trading as the prompt month.  Opening at $2.097, roughly ten cents above May’s settlement price of $1.995, prices lost penny through the opening hour  before recovering ahead of the 10:30AM EIA Storage Report.  As the slightly bearish report was released, the contract initially fell below $2.080.  Lacking any resolute direction in the following minutes, prices traded within a two-cent range until ascending to the intraday high of $2.106 at 11:20AM.  Losing ground just ahead of 12:00PM, June seesawed along the $2.08 mark for the balance of the day to close lower on Thursday at $2.078.

The EIA Natural Gas Storage Report published on Thursday showed a 73 BCF injection to storage for the week ended April 22nd – slightly above the market estimate of 70 BCF.  Total working gas in storage was reported as 2,557 BCF, 51.6% above this time last year and 48.2% above the five-year average.

This morning in Globex, WTI Crude was up 35 cents; Natural Gas was down three cents; Heating Oil was up one cent; and, Gasoline was down slightly.  Additionally, cash prices were lower in New York and New England.

Natural Gas Glossary

For access to Sprague’s full Natural Gas Market Watch Report including commentary not posted here, please send your request to or call 1-855-466-2842.