US ethanol exports rise 26% in 2016 to second-highest level on record

ethanol exports

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Petroleum Supply Monthly, Ethanol exports

Brazil surpassed Canada as top destination for US fuel ethanol exports, receiving 267 million gallons in 2016

The United States exported more than 1 billion gallons (68,000 barrels per day) of fuel ethanol in 2016, an increase of 26 per cent from export levels in 2015, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

US imports of ethanol, which are relatively much smaller, decreased by 60 per cent to 36 million gallons in 2016.

The United States remained a net exporter of fuel ethanol for the seventh consecutive year, exporting ethanol to 34 different countries, with Asian and South American markets receiving the highest volumes.

In the United States, ethanol is primarily used as a blending component in the production of motor gasoline and mainly blended in volumes up to 10 per cent ethanol, also known as E10.

Corn is the primary feedstock of ethanol in the United States, and large corn harvests have contributed to increased ethanol production in recent years.

The US Department of Agriculture estimates that the US produced a record 15.1 billion bushels of corn in the 2016–17 harvest year, 11 per cent more than the 2015–16 harvest.

US ethanol production reached a record level of 15 billion gallons in 2016 (equivalent to about 1 million barrels per day).

Volumes of domestic production beyond those used in US ethanol blending were exported in 2016, mainly to countries with ethanol mandates and those that use ethanol to increase octane levels.

ethanol exports

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Petroleum Supply Monthly

 

Brazil surpassed Canada as the top destination for US fuel ethanol exports, receiving 267 million gallons in 2016.

Brazil is one of the world’s largest producers and consumers of fuel ethanol, but unlike the United States, Brazil’s main ethanol feedstock is sugarcane.

Relatively high global sugar prices during 2016 encouraged more sugar production over sugarcane ethanol production.

Corn ethanol exports to Brazil were further encouraged by Brazil’s 27 per cent fuel ethanol mandate and its zero import tariff for ethanol, which will remain in place through the end of 2021.

China, the third-highest export destination, received 179 million gallons of US fuel ethanol in 2016, as US ethanol remained an attractive option for meeting Chinese ethanol blending mandates.

Exports from the United States to China were especially attractive during 2016 because of a temporary reduction of the Chinese tariff on ethanol.

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The tariff was reduced from 30 per cent to 5 per cent during 2016, but returned to 30 per cent at the start of 2017.

US ethanol imports fell 60 per cent in 2016 to 36 million gallons, the lowest level since 2010.

Imports were almost exclusively (99 per cent) sugarcane ethanol from Brazil. Most of the imported ethanol went to the West Coast region, most likely for compliance with California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) Program, which uses scoring rules that count sugarcane ethanol as a fuel with a much lower carbon content than corn ethanol.

In its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), EIA forecasts that net exports of ethanol will increase by 6 per cent more than 2016 levels to reach 1.2 billion gallons in 2017, potentially matching or exceeding the record level set in 2011.

 

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