Final 2012 numbers show 2012 U.S. ethanol exports down 38 percent

By Holly Jessen | February 13, 2013

Compared to the record-setting year of 2011, the U.S. ethanol industry exported significantly less ethanol in 2012. “While 2012 exports were lower than 2011's record volumes, global demand for U.S. ethanol remained relatively strong,” said Geoff Cooper, RFA's vice president of research and analysis. “Clearly, nations around the world are increasingly recognizing the benefits of using a cleaner-burning, lower-cost alternative to petroleum.”

A total of 738.7 million gallons of U.S. ethanol was exported in 2012, according to government data released recently, Cooper said on Feb. 11.  However, that’s a 38 percent decrease from the record amount exported in 2011.

Canada was the No. 1 destination for U.S. ethanol, bringing in 235.8 million gallons, or nearly one third of the total. Another 65.2 million gallons was exported to the United Kingdom and 59.5 million gallons went to Brazil. The Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Mexico and Peru were other top importers, Cooper said, specifying that Mexico and Peru are new markets for U.S. ethanol. “As we enter 2013, one of the ethanol industry's top priorities will be to grow export demand and tap into new international markets,” he said, adding that demand in Canada and the European Union, traditional export markets, has remained relatively steady while the amount of U.S. ethanol exported to Brazil plummeted.

Net exports added up to 183.7 million gallons when ethanol imports of 555 million gallons were factored in, Cooper said. The biggest importer was Brazil, which sent substantial amounts of Brazilian sugarcane ethanol to the U.S. in the second half of 2012. A total of 459.2 million gallons of Brazilian ethanol was imported, adding up to 83 percent of total imports for the year. The U.S. also received 54.6 million gallons of ethanol via Jamaica, 25 million gallons from El Salvador and 8.5 million gallons from Costa Rica. Limited quantities came from Guatemala and Nicaragua.

In 2011, a total of 1.19 billion gallons of U.S. ethanol was exported. One third, or 395.5 million gallons, went to Brazil, the No. 1 destination for U.S. ethanol. For a variety of factors, it was expected that, in 2012, U.S. ethanol would be shipped to Brazil and Brazilian ethanol would be shipped to the U.S., returning it to being a leading exporter to the U.S.