On April 30th, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released Q4 2018 data on the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) market in California. Notably, the market saw an LCFS credit surplus of approximately 67k credits, snapping a deficit streak of four straight quarters. Approximately 3.27 million metric tons (MT) of credits were generated in Q4 2018 compared to 3.20 million MT of deficits in the same time frame. This credit surplus can be largely attributed to the uptick in clean diesel substitutes, namely renewable diesel and bio-diesel, which from a volumetric perspective, increased 37.2% and 14.8%, respectively, from Q3 to Q4 2018.
The following chart shows credit production changes for the highest credit-producing fuels in the LCFS market:
With an average quarter-over-quarter credit increase rate of 9.11% since Q1 2011, the Q4 2018 increase of 16.89% from Q3 2018 is well above the running average. However, when factoring out the increases in renewable diesel and bio-diesel credit generation, overall credit generation only increased 1.45% from Q3 to Q4 2018. As such, monitoring the influx of renewable diesel and bio-diesel in the marketplace will be integral to projecting credit growth over the next few quarters.
The following chart shows deficit changes for the two baseline deficit-producing fuels in the LCFS market:
While CARBOB and diesel fuels both saw a volumetric and deficit-production decline in Q4 2018, the influx of renewable diesel into the market produced 160k deficits in Q4 2018. This outpaced the deficit decrease in traditional deficit-producing fuels, increasing the overall deficit count by 2.03% from Q3 2018.
The following chart released by CARB illustrates the overall LCFS market trends:
With a step down in the Carbon Intensity (CI) Compliance Standard in 2019, we will likely see an uptick in deficit production beginning in Q1 2019, barring any major changes in fuel production. The influx of renewable diesel will continue to be a determining market force from both a credit and deficit perspective.
With regards to pricing, in recent weeks, we have seen pricing come off its ~$200 peak after CARB proposed a hard $200 price cap (in 2016 $ indexed for inflation) on the program in a workshop on April 5th. As of recent, CA LCFS spot market pricing has ranged between $180 and $185/credit.
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