Key jet fuel market metric surges as flight demand withstands Omicron

Jack Wittels 1/17/2022

(Bloomberg) --The jet fuel market is soaring in Europe as global air traffic withstands the impact of the omicron virus strain.

One of the fuel’s most important market metrics, its differential to diesel, on Friday surged to its highest since September 2019 -- long before Covid-19 decimated the continent’s aviation industry.

“We’re tight supply everywhere,” said Mark Williams, an oil products markets and refining analyst at Wood Mackenzie Ltd. For Europe, “everyone was expecting demand to take a hit because of omicron. That hasn’t emerged -- so jet demand has stayed pretty healthy.”

While flights are still way down on 2019 levels, they’re only slightly below where they were in November, according to data from FlightRadar24, which tracks commercial flights. That’s in stark contrast to the plunge in global air traffic and jet fuel demand in the spring of 2020.

The strong European prices aren’t being reflected everywhere, however.

Asian regrade, as the premium to diesel is known, is still below pre-pandemic levels. China is slashing flights to fight outbreaks and Hong Kong recently banned flights from eight countries, including the U.S. The measure is also below its seasonal norm in the U.S.

When jet fuel prices crashed in 2020, refiners responded by diverting production into other products. But yields have risen in recent months in the U.S., and in Europe were at 6% from June through October, up from a low of 4% during the worst of the pandemic, according to IHS Markit. Before Covid, European yields were about 9%.

Globally, jet fuel demand is forecast to surge about 45% from late January to early July, according to BloombergNEF, with growth particularly strong in North America and Western Europe.

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