Grains Council Presents Ethanol Export Strategy

During this week’s 55th Annual Board of Delegates Meeting in Montreal, Canada, the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) unveiled an ethanol export promotion strategy. The program was developed with input from the ethanol industry including U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

U.S. Grains Council Chairman Ron Gray.

U.S. Grains Council Chairman Ron Gray.

“In 2014, the Council and its partners completed in-depth market assessments in Southeast Asia, Peru, Panama, Japan and Korea that produced valuable information used develop this strategy,” said USGC Chairman Ron Gray. “Our plans in these markets continue to develop, and we are carrying on market assessment work in places like Canada and the European Union. However, we are also moving forward aggressively with market development and policy-focused work in countries like the Philippines that have the potential to increase demand for U.S. ethanol in the near term.”

Ethanol was the subject of a general session panel at the meeting, including input from Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis, RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen and Green Plains Renewable Energy Executive Vice President for Ethanol Marketing Steve Bleyl, moderated by USGC’s Chief Economist Mike Dwyer, a leading global biofuels analyst.

Ethanol export plans were explored in more depth during the Ethanol Advisory Team meeting, comprised of members from throughout the value chain, and a breakout session focused specifically on USGC’s ongoing ethanol-focused programs.

“U.S. ethanol exports are becoming increasingly vital to our stakeholders’ bottom line, which makes finding new markets for U.S. ethanol is a priority for the Council,” Gray added. “This plan shows our and our partners’ commitments to making that happen.”

Among other activities, two trade teams in the United States and three missions traveling overseas are scheduled to focus on ethanol in the remainder of 2015.

Brazilian Tariff on Imported Ethanol Increases

The Brazilian government this week increased the tariff on imported ethanol from 9.25 percent to 11.75 percent, effective immediately.

unicaThe Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) issued a statement regarding the changes to Brazil’s tax policy signed into law by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff Monday.

Ethanol produced in Brazil is subject to a range of federal taxes with revenue allocated to social security, including the social participation program (PIS) and social security financing contribution (COFINS) on domestic production. Today’s action by President Rousseff will level the playing field between Brazilian sugarcane ethanol and imported biofuels by subjecting foreign renewable fuels to comparable taxation and should not be confused with an importation tariff.

It is important to note the PIS and COFINS paid on ethanol imports will turn into a credit for the importer, which may then be used to pay other tax debts or be reimbursed by the Brazilian government, having the effect of anticipated taxes that would already be collected.

“Brazilian sugarcane producers have long been strong advocates of removing trade barriers and creating tax parity for renewable fuels,” said Elizabeth Farina, UNICA President. “Working together, the United States and Brazil have built a thriving global biofuels trade benefiting both countries, and we look forward to continued progress toward shared environmental and economic goals.”

Building Markets for Ethanol Exports

RFA's Kelly Davis on ethanol trade mission to Mexico

RFA’s Kelly Davis on ethanol trade mission to Mexico

Expanding export markets for U.S. ethanol was the focus last month as a group of industry representatives to Mexico and Japan on trade missions coordinated through a partnership between the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), U.S. Grains Council and Growth Energy.

RFA Director of Regulatory Affairs Kelly Davis says they saw exceptional opportunities in Mexico. “I left very excited about a potential market beginning in 2016-17 for some corn ethanol exports,” said Davis.

The group met with PEMEX, the Mexican state-owned petroleum company, which Davis says has traditionally been against the idea of using corn ethanol for fuel but that may be changing. “Mexico has enacted an energy reform bill which opens their energy sector to competition,” said Davis. “We think this opens the market up to ethanol because it’s more price competitive compared to the oxygenate they now use which is MTBE.”

Davis says Japan currently has an E3 limit and most ethanol is blended into the supply as ETBE, “so technically they already use ethanol but they use ethanol as a feedstock to make ETBE and then use that as their blending agent.” There is some optimism that the market share of biofuels in Japan will continue to increase through the use of E10.

Learn more in this interview: Interview with RFA's Kelly Davis on ethanol trade mission trip

Nebraska Governor Talks Biofuels in Europe

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and ag delegation meet with officials in Brussels

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and ag delegation meet with officials in Brussels

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts is on an agricultural trade mission trip to the European Union with stops in Italy, Belgium, and Denmark. The trade mission, being coordinated jointly by the Nebraska Departments of Agriculture and Economic Development, includes a number of representatives from the state’s agriculture and biofuels industry.

“As the number two ethanol producer in the country, we have a big interest in seeing what we can do with ethanol and one of the concerns in the industry is being able to export,” said Ricketts during a conference call with reporters on Friday from Brussels. “We’re just starting the conversion with regard to how we can expand that and export our ethanol into the European Union.”

In Brussels, the trade team met with executives from Ghent Port Company, TOTCO, Sygenta Brussels, and a consultant for Belgian Biodiesel Board to promote Nebraska’s biofuels industry and build relations between firms in Europe and the U.S.

Neb. Gov Pete Ricketts discusses biofuels in Europe

Ethanol Trade Missions to Expand Markets

Representatives of the U.S. Grains Council (USGC), Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), and Growth Energy were in Tokyo this week for an industry market assessment of the potential to export U.S. ethanol to Japan.

growth-exports“The United States exported 900 million gallons of ethanol in 2014, supporting both U.S. farmers and the ethanol industry. We know that, going forward, ethanol exports have the potential to grow and become equally beneficial for our customers overseas,” said USGC president and CEO Tom Sleight. “USGC, Growth and RFA are committed to launching initiatives in 2015 and 2016 to build demand for U.S. ethanol and address barriers to ongoing imports.”

Over the next two years, the government of Japan will be undertaking a full review of its national energy policies, including biofuels, potentially opening up opportunities for additional ethanol exports there.

“The team came away with a much greater understanding of the current Japanese requirements and market conditions pertaining to ethanol and began the implementation of a strategy to help ensure that U.S. ethanol receives fair market access under the future energy policy that will be adopted when the current policy expires in 2017,” said Jim Miller, chief economist and vice president of Growth Energy.

“The team will continue examining the requirements of the Japanese sustainability standards, looking for ways to overcome infrastructure concerns, and compiling data responding to some of the misinformation government officials still hold regarding renewable fuels,” added RFA’s director of regulatory affairs, Kelly Davis.

Last week, the organizations were part of a mission with USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service in Mexico to explore potential in that market. One mission member, Greg Krissek, CEO of Kansas Corn, reflected on the trip in this video from the USGC.


DDGS Exports to China Returning to Normal

Exports of U.S. distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) are starting to return to normal levels, according to the latest numbers for March.

Patriot Renewable Fuels DDGsThe Renewable Fuels Association reports that exports of the animal feed ethanol co-product rose in March for the fourth consecutive month, at 923,515 metric tons (mt), up 15% from February, with half of those shipments going to China. Exports of DDGS to China have been increasing this year after falling off last year due to a biotech trait issue. If normal shipments to China resume on an ongoing basis, 2015 theoretically could see total exports reach the 11 million mt mark. Mexico, Canada, Vietnam, and Thailand account for most of the remaining global market.

U.S. exports of ethanol in March were down slightly from February at 83.8 million gallons (mg), but that still represents the third-highest monthly volume in the last 12 months. Brazil and Canada accounted for half of total U.S. ethanol exports in March, followed by Oman and South Korea. The Netherlands, Tunisia and Nigeria were other key destinations in March.

U.S. Ethanol Exports Rebound in 2014

usda-fasUSDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service reports that exports of U.S. ethanol exports rebounded last year after two years of declines. It was the second highest level of ethanol exports in history, making the United States the largest exporter of ethanol in the world, surpassing Brazil for the second time.

Value and volume of ethanol exports were both up approximately 35 percent from 2013, although still below the record set in 2011. At nearly 3.2 billion liters (836 million gallons), U.S. ethanol exports were worth more than $2 billion dollars. Six percent of ethanol produced in the United States was exported last year, shipped to a more diverse range of markets. Exports to Canada accounted for 40% of the total and while exports to Brazil and Europe dropped, dramatic increases were seen in markets such as the Philippines, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates.

On the other side, U.S. ethanol imports (including both fuel and non-fuel ethanol) dropped by more than half in 2014, to less than 900 million liters, the lowest level since 2010. At the same time, domestic ethanol production jumped nearly eight percent in 2014, reaching a record 54 billion liters (14.3 billion gallons).

Read the entire FAS report here.

RFA Reports February Ethanol Export Record

The Renewable Fuels Association reports that U.S. ethanol exports reached a new record in February, based on an analysis of the latest government data.

RFANewlogoAccording to RFA Research Analyst Ann Lewis, U.S. exports of denatured and undenatured ethanol in February totaled 85.2 million gallons, up 24% from January, the highest February export volume on record. Year-to-date exports at 153.9 million gallons are in line with exports during the same period last year.

The biggest customer for U.S. ethanol remains Brazil, which received about one quarter (28%) of total U.S. ethanol exports in February, followed by India (20%), Canada (17%), and the United Arab Emirates (12%). The Philippines, South Korea, the Netherlands and Peru were other key destinations in February.

In addition, exports of the ethanol co-product distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) rose 13% to the highest monthly level in 5 months, as the Chinese market continues to recover. “However, exports to China remain at about half the level enjoyed prior to the market collapse,” said Lewis.

Recovery of China DDGS Market Continues

Patriot Renewable Fuels DDGsEthanol exports from the United States dropped in January and while distillers grains (DDGS) exports were also lower compared to December, the Chinese market for DDGS is showing recovery.

According to Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) vice president Geoff Cooper, U.S. ethanol producers exported 68.7 million gallons of ethanol in January, down 9% from December 2014 and the lowest since September 2014. However, “imports barely registered in January, with only 28,670 gallons coming in from Canada.”

On the DDGS side, exports totaled 708,861 metric tons in January, down 3% from December and still down 22% compared to a year ago. But the good news is that China was the top market for DDGS exports, receiving 24% of the total. Recovery of the Chinese market continues, as January exports to China were 35% above December levels and up dramatically from near zero in November.

Ethanol Conference Going Global Panel

nec15-global-panelThe theme of the 20th National Ethanol Conference was “Going Global,” and the title panel featured five international experts to discuss building ethanol demand in new markets.

Moderated by Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) general counsel Ed Hubbard, the panel included Pedro Paranhos of Eco-Energy; Lakeview Energy CEO Jim Galvin; Henrique Pacini of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); Mike Dwyer with the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service; and Robert Wright with ePure.

Hubbard started off the conversation, pointing out that while the U.S. ethanol industry hit record-breaking levels of ethanol exports to the world – 836 million gallons in 2014 – there’s still room for growth.

“As long as U.S. made ethanol provides a valuable, cheaper and cleaner alternative to petroleum-based gasoline, it will continue to be sought all over the globe. This panel’s goal is to help you identify some opportunities, new and expanded, to address some of the challenges we face as we move forward,” Hubbard said.

Paranhos echoed those sentiments, as he broke down how Brazil has seen its overall ethanol market grow over the last 10 years but has plateaued in the last few. Part of that is some of the same issues U.S. ethanol producers are facing: economics and regulatory, in America’s case, the blend wall. The panel talked about how export markets are helped the most by mandates, which help fuel growth of ethanol. Presenters pointed out that producers need to consider sustainability and environmental factors to meet certain countries’ and regions’ requirements to get into those markets, which also, in turn, return better profits for ethanol plants.

Dwyer told those attending that ethanol has made tremendous global gains over the past few years – impressive when you consider the green fuel had to overcome the “food-versus-fuel” debate and a 54-cent-per-gallon tax on ethanol exports.

“In 2008, when I took over this job, if I had told you that the U.S. would become the world’s largest exporter of ethanol, you would have thought I was drinking that ethanol,” he said, pointing out how while gasoline consumption has dropped in the U.S., it’s growing worldwide, making American ethanol competitive on the global market. “A lot has happened in five years.”

The panel members said, even when you consider where ethanol has been and the obstacles ahead, there still is great potential for growth worldwide.

Listen to the panel’s complete remarks here: NEC 15 Going Global Panel

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album