Frigid Weather Takes Toll on Ethanol Production

Cindy Zimmerman

Ethanol production took a dive last week along with the temperatures as the polar vortex that hit most of the country led to electricity outages, major disruptions in the natural gas market, and transportation issues.

According to EIA data analyzed by the Renewable Fuels Association, ethanol production plummeted 27.8%, or 253,000 barrels per day (b/d), to 658,000 b/d—equivalent to 27.64 million gallons daily and the lowest output since May 8, 2020. This was the largest week-over-week drop on record. Production remained 37.6% below the same week last year. The four-week average ethanol production rate fell 7.4% to 860,000 b/d, equivalent to an annualized rate of 13.18 billion gallons (bg).

Ethanol stocks sank 6.2% to an 11-week low of 22.8 million barrels, which was 7.8% below a year-ago. Inventories drew down across all regions, including a sizable decrease (down 1.05 million barrels) in the Midwest (PADD 2).

As the National Ethanol Conference got underway last Tuesday, RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper had already heard from ethanol producers who were being impacted by the weather who ultimately had to reduce output rates by 40% or fully idle. “With much warmer weather this week, the natural gas and electricity mess is beginning to untangle itself, but it may be another week or so before the industry returns to pre-vortex operations.”

Listen to Cooper’s comments on how the weather was impacting plants last week.
RFA CEO Geoff Cooper - cold weather impact on ethanol production 1:31

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