Renewable Energy Report: April 2018 Report

In this month’s article, we look at pure biodiesel production and its feedstock usage for 2017. A previous update covering pure biodiesel production can be found in the April 2017 Report.   Pure or traditional biodiesel is known as Fatty Acid Methyl Ester (FAME). Renewable diesel (also known as Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil or HVO) and FAME often are confused. These both are made from organic biomass, but are different products due to the production process and quality attributes.

Renewable diesel is produced by hydrotreating very clean biomass materials after removing impurities from the raw biomass-based feedstocks. Renewable diesel has an identical chemical composition with traditional petroleum diesel (i.e. both are hydrocarbons), and can be used in high concentration in all diesel engines. Pure biodiesel, an ester, is produced by esterifying vegetable oil and fats. The usage of pure biodiesel in high concentration can cause problems in conventional diesel engines, so in general is limited to a maximum inclusion rate of up to 20 percent (B20) in the United States.

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The main co-product of corn ethanol plants is distillers grains. Based on the level of moisture content, distillers grains can be marketed as wet, modified, or dried. Among all these co-products, distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) is the number one commodity. Data from USDA-NASS indicates DDGS production during the first six months of the marketing year (September 2017-February 2018) was equal to 10.5 million metric tons (MT), down 2.9 percent from the same period last year (10.8 million MT). Yet DDGS continued as the leading co-product of corn ethanol production (see Figure 1). Production of distillers dried grains excluding solubles (DDG-excluding solubles) stayed about the same as in the first half of the 2016/17 marketing year with 2.3 million MT. Production of wet distillers grains with 65 percent or more moisture content was up 4.1% to 7.4 million MT during the first half of the 2017/18 marketing year relative to the same period the previous year (7.1 million MT). Production of wet distillers grains with moisture content between 40 to 64 percent was up 16.1 percent to 2.6 million MT during September 2017 through February 2018 relative to the same period the preceding marketing year.

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A recent data analysis done by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) shows U.S. ethanol exports in February 2017 totaled a record 218.7 million gallons, an increase of 148 percent from January 2017. February 2017 exports broke the previous monthly record set in December 2011. This export data analysis published by RFA can be found here.

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