Canadian Biomass Magazine

China top customer for U.S. ethanol

December 7, 2015
By Ann Lewis/RFA

December 7, 2015 - U.S. ethanol exports in October totalled 70.1 million gallons (mg), up 16 per cent over September levels, according to RFA analysis of government data recently released. 

For the first time ever, China served as the top customer for U.S. ethanol, buying nearly half of all ethanol exports in October. Exports to China catapulted to 32.6 mg — almost double the cumulative volume of exports shipped to China over the past two years.

Canada was the second-leading destination in October, but shipments north of the border were about one-third lower than September at 20.1 mg (29 per cent of total exports). The Philippines brought in 9.8 mg of U.S. product, while other key importers included South Korea (4.1 mg), Jamaica (1.5 mg) and Singapore (1.1 mg). Once again, Brazil completely disappeared from the U.S. export market. Total year-to-date ethanol exports for the United States are 695.0 mg — four per cent more than this time last year. Year-to-date shipments indicate an annualized rate of exports of 834 mg.

October exports of undenatured fuel ethanol tallied 19.5 mg, down 42 per cent from September. The Philippines (9.8 mg) pulled in half of the product, with South Korea (4.0 mg), China (2.6 mg) and four others picking up the rest. Meanwhile, October exports of denatured fuel ethanol doubled to 47.0 mg, primarily split between China (29.9 mg) and Canada (17.1 mg). It was the largest monthly total of the year for denatured fuel ethanol exports.The United States exported 3.6 mg of undenatured and denatured ethanol for non-fuel, non-beverage use, up 17 per cent from September. Most product crossed our borders to Canada (3.0 mg, or 92 per cent) and Mexico (250,036 gallons, or seven per cent).

U.S. ethanol imports dropped to 5.5 mg in October, down from the September volume of 24.9 mg. Year-to-date U.S. imports of ethanol hit 63.2 mg—lagging behind last year’s cumulative volume at this point. The U.S. has now realized its 26th month as a net exporter.

October exports of U.S. distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS)—the animal feed co-product manufactured by dry mill ethanol plants—continued to slide for the third straight month after hitting a record high in July. DDGS exports fell seven per cent to a still significant 1.03 million metric tons (mt). China’s share of export shipments continued to fall, with 368,656 mt entering the country in October–down 24 per cent from September. 

Sales to the rest of the world increased six per cent with exports dispersed across a wider number of market participants. Larger shipments headed to Mexico (164,314 mt, or 16 per cent), Vietnam (88,305 mt, or nine per cent), Canada (52,623 mt), Turkey (52,498 mt) and South Korea (46,159 mt). There were also notable increases in volumes purchased by Turkey, Morocco, Mexico and Canada, which helped to offset smaller shipments to China, South Korea and Viet Nam. Total U.S. DDGS exports for the year have reached 10.6 million mt, with annual volumes projected to break records at 12.8 million mt. China will remain the principal U.S. DDGS customer in 2015, with Mexico, Viet Nam, South Korea and Canada and Thailand also serving as top markets.

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