Biodiesel Industry Struggles, But RINS Are Strong

John Davis

The biodiesel industry in the U.S. has been struggling lately, but the trading market for renewable identification numbers … the numbers the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will require to prove compliance with the new Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) … is pretty strong.

Biodiesel Magazine reports that RIN prices seem to be filling the void the lapse of the federal $1 per gallon tax credit has created, fueled by the EPA’s recently released targets under RFS2:

In late November the agency released 2011 volume requirements, which consists of nested mandates. According to the release, 1.35 billion gallons of advanced biofuel must be consumed next year. Of that number 800 million gallons must be biomass-based diesel. Since biodiesel is currently the primary commercially-available advanced biofuel, the agency notes it will likely be used to meet the vast majority of the 1.35 billion advanced biofuel mandate.

According to Sam Gray, a renewable fuels trader with VICNRG LLC, 2010 biodiesel RINs hit an all-time high on Dec. 8, trading at 96 cents per RIN. Since each gallon of biodiesel that is produced generates 1.5 RINs, that equates to $1.44 per gallon, which more than offsets the lost value of the expired $1 per gallon biodiesel tax credit.

Although prices began slipping Dec. 9, Gray notes that they could easily remain in the 80 to 90 cent range for the remainder of the year. The good news for biodiesel producers is that the RIN system seems to be working as it was intended to by the EPA. “[RINs] are doing their jobs, they are doing exactly what EPA intended to do; to recognize the subsidy behind the gallon of renewable fuel to try to get favorable blending economics—or something resembling decent blending economics,” Gray said. “RINs are performing well within the mandate RFS2.” The biodiesel market in 2011 is expected to remain tight, which should ensure relatively high prices for 2011 biodiesel RINs as well.

Experts say RIN prices tend to go down in the spring but jump at the end of the year as obligated parties try to get into compliance before the deadline. Also, they say the RINs are functioning as they should, and the biodiesel market is continuing, despite the loss of the federal credit.