EIA increases 2020 ethanol production forecast

By Erin Voegele | May 12, 2020

The U.S. Energy Information Administration increased its forecast for 2020 ethanol production, but lowered its prediction for 2021 ethanol production in its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook, released on May 12.

The EIA now predicts ethanol production will average 870,000 barrels per day this year, up from its April forecast of 820,000 barrels per day. The forecast for 2021, however, has been reduced to 970,000 barrels per day, down from the April forecast of 990,000 barrels per day.  

In its May STEO, the EIA said it is forecasting significant decreases in U.S. liquid fuels demand during the first half of 2020 as a result of COVID-19 travel restrictions and disruptions to business and economic activity. The EIA expects the largest impacts to occur in the second quarter of 2020 before gradually dissipating over the next 18 months.

EIA expects U.S. motor gasoline consumption to fall from 8.6 million barrels per day in the first quarter of 2020 to an average of 7 million barrels per day in the second quarter before gradually increasing to 8.7 million barrels per day in the second half of the year. For all of 2020, the EIA forecasts that U.S. motor gasoline consumption will average 8.3 million barrels per day, a decrease of 11 percent compared with 2019.

EIA data shows U.S. ethanol production was at approximately 1.02 million barrels per day during the first quarter of this year. Production is expected to fall to an average of 690,000 barrels per day in the second quarter, increase to 850,000 barrels per day in the third quarter and reach 930,000 barrels per day in the fourth quarter. In 2021, ethanol production is expected to average 940,000 barrels per day in the first quarter, increase to 970,000 barrels per day in the second quarter, 980,000 barrels per day in the third quarter, and 990,000 barrels per day in the fourth quarter.

The U.S. is expected to consume approximately 820,000 barrels per day of ethanol this year, increasing to 890,000 barrels per day in 2021. Expected consumption levels for both years is down when compared to the 950,000 barrels per day consumed in 2019.

The EIA’s most recent weekly data shows ethanol production averaged 598,000 barrels per day during the week ending May 1, up from 537,000 barrels per day the previous week. Weekly ethanol ending stocks for the week ending May 1 were at 25.612 million barrels down 26.337 million barrels the previous week.

The agency’s most recent monthly data shows the U.S. imported 248,000 barrels of ethanol in February, all from Brazil. During the same month, the U.S. exported 4.624 million barrels of ethanol, primarily to Brazil, India and Canada.