USDA GAIN report outlines status of Spain's ethanol industry

By Erin Voegele | October 17, 2012

The UDSA Foreign Agricultural Service recently published a Global Agricultural Information Network report outlining Spain’s ethanol industry. The report,” titled “Spain’s Bioethanol Standing Report,” notes that the country is one of the top four ethanol producers and consumers in the EU.

According to the report, Spain has to import between 9 and 13 million metric tons of grain annually to meet the needs of its livestock sector and ethanol industry, which consumes approximately 1 million metric tons of feedstock.

The report specifies that Spain’s ethanol industry will face new challenges in 2013, including the end of the hydrocarbon tax exemption for biofuel. Ethanol will also be subject to sustainability requirements.

Spain is currently home to four first-generation ethanol plants, all of which were built before 2008. A second-generation pilot plant is also operating within the country. Together, the 5 plants represent 583 million liters (154 million gallons) of production capacity. Abengoa owns three of the first generation plants, and the cellulosic pilot facility. Accionia-Uriel investments owns the fifth plant, which produces ethanol from raw wine alcohol produced in domestic alcohol distilleries. According to the GAIN report, approximately 80 percent of installed capacity is currently in operation.

The vast majority, 95 percent, of Spain’s ethanol is produced using grain-based feedstocks. The remaining 5 percent is from wine alcohol. While corn, wheat and barley are the preferred grains for ethanol production in Spain, the report notes that their shares vary year by year, depending on price relations. Sorghum was also used by the industry in 2007/2008 due to high world grain prices.

In 2011, corn accounted for an estimated 65 percent of ethanol feedstock in Spain. The relative percentages for wheat, barley and wine alcohol were 25 percent, 5 percent and 5 percent.

Production in 2012 is expected to be down slightly due to high competition for feedstock. The report estimates that 340,000 metric tons of ethanol will be produced this year, compared to 365,000 metric tons in 2011 and 372,000 metric tons in 2010. Ethanol mandates in Spain for 2012 and 2013 are currently set at 4.1 percent.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded on the USDA website