As a ZE PowerGroup representative, I recently attended the Argus Americas Asphalt Summit held during the second week of March at the Hilton Post Oak Hotel in Houston, Texas.

The event brought more than 150 traders, marketers, refiners and infrastructure resources together to discuss the changes in refinery crude slates, as well as how increases in coking capacity will impact the North American asphalt markets in 2013 and beyond. Overall I found the event very productive as it provided an excellent platform for industry providers to have a wider discussion on bitumen (asphalt). I found the market background information presented during the summit to be particularly helpful.

Some of the dynamics of the event included presentations concerning the rising production of sweet light crude in the US Midcontinent and Gulf Coast, and competitive Canadian crude pricing providing refiners with an incentive to process lighter sweeter crudes.

The conference also covered topics that highlighted that the higher prices for HSFO in Singapore are drawing heavy refinery yields from the Gulf coast to Asia and out of the asphalt market. There were also discussions on current industry occurrences and how to respond to the various market situations considering that geo-political, production technologies, production forecasts and diluent quality are all important. Speakers spoke about the Brent vs WTI spread and its impact on refinery production decisions and trade flows; Bakken crude competing with heavy Canadian crudes in the Midwest and Rocky Mountains, changes in Gulf Coast crude slates and new trade flows and logistical considerations for asphalt.

Asphalt economics and asphalt’s relationship to crude and HSFO was also a feature of the three-day discussion. I was personally very interested to learn that Bitumen is now used in road construction and roofing materials.

From a marketing perspective, the ZE PowerGroup exhibition booth was positioned in a great location, which had excellent opportunities to network with attendees. A key highlight from this year’s event for me was to meet and talk with Shell Asphalt traders about the core functions of ZEMA and how the solution would assist them in their data. I would like to thank Argus for hosting a very fruitful and interesting event. I look forward to next year.