The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA’s FAS) recently conducted the fourth annual Bioethanol Fuel Promotion Conference in Seoul, South Korea. The effort is designed to encourage ethanol use in the South Korean transport sector by providing 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. 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.
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.