RFA: US ethanol exports reached 836 million gallons in 2015

By Erin Voegele | February 08, 2016

The Renewable Fuels Association has released a new summary of ethanol trade statistics, reporting the U.S. ethanol industry exported 836 million gallons of ethanol last year valued at $18 billion. When compared to 2014 exports, volumes were identical and tied for the second-highest annual total on record. The current record for ethanol exports was set in 2011 at 1.193 billion gallons.

Denatured ethanol for fuel use accounted for approximately 47 percent of total exports last year, with undenatured ethanol for fuel use at 48.5 percent. Denatured and undenatured ethanol for other industrial uses totaled approximately 4.5 percent.

The RFA’s report indicates approximately 5.7 percent of total U.S. ethanol production was exported last year, the third-highest share in history. Exports accounted for 8.6 percent of production in 2011 and 5.8 percent in 2014.

According to the report, U.S. ethanol was exported to all six inhabited continents last year, reaching 76 countries. Canada, Brazil, the Philippines, China, and South Korea were the top five destination countries for U.S. ethanol exports. Approximately 30 percent of U.S. ethanol exports went to Canada last year, followed by 14 percent to Brazil, 9 percent to the Philippines, 8 percent to China, 7 percent to South Korea, 6 percent to India, 4 percent each to the Netherlands, Oman and Mexico, 3 percent to Tunisia, and 11 percent to the rest of the world.

On a volume basis, 249.5 million gallons of ethanol was exported to Canada last year, down 35 percent from 2014. Approximately 116.4 million gallons was exported to Brazil, up 4 percent from the previous year. Exports also increased by 5 percent to the Philippines, reaching 71.5 million gallons. U.S. ethanol exports to China increased 95 percent from 2014 to 2015, reaching 70.5 million gallons last year. Exports to South Korea were also up dramatically, growing by 40 percent and reaching 59.6 million gallons in 2015.

The U.S. imported approximately 93 million gallons of fuel ethanol last year, up 10 percent when compared to 2014, but still the third-lowest annual total in the past 10 years. Ethanol imports were equivalent to approximately 11 percent of exports last year. Undenatured ethanol for fuel use accounted for approximately 91 percent of ethanol imports last year, with denatured ethanol for fuel use accounting for 9 percent. The majority of exports, 85.4 million gallons, came from Brazil, followed by the Netherlands with 3.2 million gallons, Spain with 1.9 million gallons and Guatemala at 1.8 million gallons. An additional 900,000 gallons was imported from other countries.

Approximately 26 percent of U.S. ethanol imports entered the country through Los Angeles last year. Miami, Tampa, New York City and San Francisco were also top port cities for ethanol imports.

According to the RFA’s report, imported ethanol accounted for 0.7 percent of U.S. ethanol consumption last year, up slightly from 0.6 percent in 2014.  Net imports last year reached 743 million gallons, down from 752 million gallons in 2014.

“Ethanol’s value as an octane booster was in the global spotlight in 2015. Even with falling crude oil prices, ethanol remained the lowest-cost—and cleanest—source of octane in the world,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA, in a statement. “Clearly, refiners in foreign markets are optimizing their operations to take advantage of ethanol’s unique octane properties, just as U.S. refiners have done in recent years.”

Dinneen said the RFA and its partners will continue to seek opportunities to expand foreign markets in 2016. “Growth in the export market is critically important to the future of our industry,” he continued. “With EPA failing to enforce the Renewable Fuel Standard volumes established by Congress, we must continue to aggressively seek new market opportunities around the world. We will continue to work collaboratively with the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Foreign Agriculture Service, U.S. Grains Council, Growth Energy, and others to expand international markets for American-made ethanol.”

The RFA publication draws data from several U.S. government entities. A full copy of the summary can be downloaded on the RFA website