Ethanol output for 2015 to hit 14.35 bil gal, biodiesel 1.24 bil gal: US EIA

Source: By Herman Wang, Platts • Posted: Thursday, May 14, 2015

US ethanol production averaged 927,000 b/d in April, according to the Energy Information Administration, with full-year 2015 production expected to average 936,000 b/d, or 14.35 billion total gallons.

US biodiesel output will average 81,000 b/d in 2015, or 1.24 billion total gallons, the EIA said in its May Short-Term Energy Outlook.

The Environmental Protection Agency has said it plans to base the 2015 Renewable Fuel Standard, scheduled to be released by June 1, on a combination of actual biofuels production to date and a projection of future production through the end of the year.

According to the EPA’s data, 3.57 billion gallons of corn ethanol Renewable Identification Numbers, along with 472 million RINs representing about 305 million gallons of biodiesel, have been generated this year through March.

RINs are credits refiners and other obligated parties use under the RFS to demonstrate compliance with the blending mandate.

The RFS requires annually increasing amounts of biofuels to be blended with the US transportation fuel supply, but gives the EPA some authority to adjust the volumes.

Under a consent decree reached last month between the EPA and two oil industry groups, the agency is scheduled to propose the 2014 and 2015 rules by June 1 and finalize them by November 30.

The EPA had said it would also propose and finalize the 2016 RFS for all fuels and the 2017 biodiesel requirement on that same timeline to get the program “back on track,” following years of delays that have frustrated oil refiners and ethanol producers alike.

The agency sent its proposed RFS volumes for those years to the White House Office of Management and Budget for final review last week, but has not revealed the rules’ contents.

RFS stakeholders will be looking to the EPA’s proposed 2016 rule to see whether the agency sets the ethanol mandate at the so-called 10% blend wall or whether it calls for higher volumes to force refiners to incorporate more ethanol in their finished fuels.

For 2016, the EIA projects ethanol production will average 937,000 b/d, or 14.36 billion total gallons, while biodiesel production will average 84,000 b/d, or 1.29 billion total gallons.

Biofuels producers have said that Congress intended the RFS to push past the blend wall to reduce US dependence on fossil fuels, while the oil industry has lobbied to keep the ethanol mandate at below that level, citing the inability of current US fueling infrastructure to handle significant quantities of gasoline blends with more than 10% ethanol.

The EPA has previously said the 2014 RFS will be based on actual biofuels production, and EPA data shows 14.34 billion gallons of corn ethanol RINs and 2.7 billion biodiesel RINs, representing about 1.8 billion gallons, were generated in 2014.