US ethanol exports up compared to same period last year

By Holly Jessen | April 17, 2012

So far, U.S. ethanol export numbers for 2012 are much smaller than last year’s end-of-the year monthly figures. On the other hand, the numbers are still higher than what was exported during the same time period in 2011, said Geoff Cooper, vice president of research and analysis for the Renewable Fuels Association.

Last year set the bar high for ethanol exports. Two notable records were broken in 2011 -- one was the 1.19 billion gallons of U.S. ethanol exported thoughout the year and another was the 172.7 million gallons exported during the month of December alone. 

In January and February, the only months for which export numbers have been released by the U.S. Census Bureau so far, the U.S. exported 76.3 million gallons and 74.8 million gallons, respectively. Added together, that’s 29 percent increase above the first two months of last year. Looking ahead to what might happen this year, Cooper indicated that the annualized total for 2012 would be 900 million gallons.

Cooper also pointed out a change in the way the Census Bureau is reporting export numbers. In 2011, U.S. ethanol exports were separated into two categories, denatured ethanol and undenatured ethanol, non-beverage use. Exports are now reported in four categories including, denatured ethanol, for fuel use; denatured ethanol, for use other than fuel; undenatured ethanol, for fuel use; and nonbeverage undenatured ethanol, for use other than fuel. “It appears Census is still working out the kinks of this new reporting convention, as the January export figures were clearly miscategorized and some of the February data appear questionable,” he said.

Overall, the leading importers of U.S. ethanol in February were Canada, the United Kingdom, Finland and Brazil. The United Kingdom brought in the largest amount of denatured ethanol at 117 million gallons. Peru, the United Arab Emirates, Finland and Brazil followed. On the undenatured ethanol for fuel use side, Brazil imported the top amount of 5.2 million gallons. The remainder of the top five list was made up of Finland, South Korea, the Netherlands and Ghana.

The data also showed that 17.3 million gallons of denatured ethanol was exported for use other than fuel. A total of 16.9 million gallons went to Canada. “Given Canada’s historical importation of ethanol for fuel use, it seems unlikely that February denatured ethanol exports to Canada were strictly for uses other than fuel,” he said.

Exports of distillers grains were up 1 percent from January. In all, 612,638 metric tons were exported in February. The top importers were 153,414 metric tons going to Mexico, 149,768 metric tons to China and 55,146 metric tons to Canada.