USGC, USDA promote fuel ethanol In South Korea

By U.S. Grains Council | May 16, 2019

The U.S. Grains Council is encouraging ethanol use in the South Korean transport sector, working with the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service to provide information on the environmental, human health and economic benefits of blending ethanol into fuel supplies.

South Korea currently ranks as the fifth largest international market for U.S. ethanol but only imports ethanol for industrial uses. To promote ethanol blending into fuel, the Council and USDA’s FAS recently conducted the fourth annual Bioethanol Fuel Promotion Conference in Seoul, South Korea. The workshop featured a report on the South Korean biofuels situation, a panel discussion between U.S. and Korean industry officials, perspective from the Japanese biofuels policy changes and the positive impacts of ethanol on air quality, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions and cost savings.

“The workshop was our largest ever and continues to provide grounds for a dialogue between the United States and South Korea on the benefits of ethanol use,” said Haksoo Kim, USGC director in South Korea. “It remains critical for the U.S. ethanol industry to directly engage Korean decision-makers as they work to address serious air pollution problems and discuss a potential national ethanol blending policy.”

U.S. ethanol accounts for roughly 73 percent of the overall industrial ethanol market in South Korea, used for the production of ethyl acetate, ethyl acrylate, washer liquid and other products.

South Korean imports of U.S. ethanol set a new record in 2017/2018 at 69.7 million gallons (24.7 million bushels in corn equivalent). Thus far in the new marketing year (September 2018 to February 2019), South Korea has imported 56.3 million gallons (nearly 20 million bushels in corn equivalent), more than doubling sales year-over-year. The increase follows a January 2018 South Korean ban on methanol, a competing product for industrial uses with high toxicity.

While U.S. ethanol is used solely for beverage and industrial uses, the South Korean government is working on research into the viability of a national biofuels policy that could provide expanded market opportunities. The Council continues to work with U.S. government officials to support Korean government and industry as they discuss the use of ethanol as a fuel alternative.

“In the past few decades more than 60 countries, including the United States and much of Europe, adopted policies promoting ethanol and other biofuels. In this region alone, China, Japan, India, the Philippines and Vietnam use ethanol-blended fuels,” wrote Harry Harris, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea in a recent op-ed. “Ethanol, of course, is not a silver bullet to solve this multifaceted environmental problem but, taking into account our experience in the United States and other countries, it’s worth strong consideration.”

Learn more about the Council’s work to promote ethanol in South Korea.