First shipment of ETBE made with US ethanol arrives in Japan

By U.S. Grains Council | July 18, 2019

The first shipment of ethyl tert-butyl ether (ETBE) made with U.S. corn-based ethanol arrived in Japan last week, marking the country’s new demand for U.S. ethanol-based products and a milestone in U.S. ethanol market development efforts.

The sale of ETBE, a gasoline component, was made following a policy change by the Japanese government recognizing the positive greenhouse gas (GHG) benefits. The shift allows for U.S. corn-based ethanol to be eligible for production of ETBE brought into Japan, in addition to sugarcane-based ethanol.

Japan will now allow U.S. ethanol to meet up to 44 percent of a total estimated demand of 217 million gallons of ethanol used to make ETBE, or potentially 95.5 million gallons of U.S.-produced ethanol annually. Japan imports nearly all ETBE from ethanol it uses.

The first ETBE shipment from the United States, purchased by Japan Biofuels Supply LLP, unloaded at Chiba port near Tokyo and then Wakayama port near Osaka. The shipment of 13.5 million gallons represents 2 million bushels of corn demand.

In recent years, the U.S. Grains Council, Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association have worked closely with corn state associations as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service to show the benefits of U.S. ethanol to Japanese officials and members of the Japanese fuel industry.

By providing detailed scientific information about U.S. ethanol’s production processes and the changes to U.S. ethanol’s carbon intensity over time, the U.S. industry helped Japanese officials gain understanding about the benefits of U.S. ethanol, a key goal of ongoing market development programs around the world.

Moving forward, the U.S. industry will continue to demonstrate the value of U.S. ethanol as a component of ETBE and as an oxygenate for fuel blending.

Japan is a historic top market for U.S. agricultural products, led by U.S. feed grains like corn and related products, including distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS), an ethanol co-product.