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Today in Energy

September 20, 2019

Increase in U.S. fuel ethanol production capacity slows

U.S. fuel ethanol production capacity
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. Fuel Ethanol Plant Production Capacity Report

Fuel ethanol production capacity in the United States totaled 16.9 billion gallons per year (gal/year) or 1.1 million barrels per day (b/d), as of January 2019, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) 2019 U.S. Fuel Ethanol Plant Production Capacity report, released on August 26. Nameplate capacity of operable ethanol plants increased by 2%—more than 300 million gal/year—between January 2018 and January 2019 after increasing by more than 700 million gallons in the previous year.

The annual U.S. Fuel Ethanol Plant Production Capacity report shows EIA’s most up-to-date data of the U.S fuel ethanol industry capacity by plant. Production capacity increased in the 2018 report because EIA contacted plants that were operating at levels higher than their listed production capacities and plants that were reporting different capacity values to EIA than those reported in industry trade journals.

After the outreach, EIA found a number of survey respondents initially reported the facilities’ original design capacity values rather than their nameplate capacity. Some respondents increased their nameplate production capacity values to be consistent with EIA’s definition. EIA uses industry trade journals to stay abreast of fuel ethanol market conditions, and it contacted plants that had reported production capacities to EIA that were inconsistent with these other published sources of the data.

Most U.S. fuel ethanol production capacity is located in the Midwest region (Petroleum Administration for Defense District, or PADD, 2). Total nameplate capacity in the Midwest totaled 15.5 billion gal/year (1.0 million b/d) at the beginning of 2019, an increase of almost 3%—more than 400 million gal/year—between January 2018 and January 2019. During the same period, combined fuel ethanol production capacity in the East Coast and Gulf Coast regions (PADDs 1 and 3) decreased by more than 100 million gal/year.

Of the top 13 fuel ethanol-producing states, 12 are located in the Midwest. The top three states—Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois—contain about half of the nation’s total ethanol production capacity.

Fuel ethanol production capacity by state
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. Fuel Ethanol Plant Production Capacity Report

U.S. production of fuel ethanol reached 16.1 billion gallons (1.0 million b/d) in 2018. In the September Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), EIA expects U.S. production of fuel ethanol to decline slightly to 15.8 billion gallons for 2019 because of poor market conditions for ethanol producers and oversupply issues.

Monthly production of fuel ethanol and nameplate capacity
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. Fuel Ethanol Plant Production Capacity Report and Petroleum Supply Monthly

Principal contributor: Chris Buckner