Some Recent Perspectives on U.S. Corn Crush for Ethanol, Ethanol Co-Products, and Ethanol Yields

 Iowa Grain Quality Initiative Logo
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By Sampath Jayasinghe and David Miller
Decision Innovation Solutions, 11107 Aurora Avenue, Urbandale, IA 50322
Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, 5400, University Avenue, West Des Moines, IA 50266

In this month’s report, we look at the amount of corn consumed in dry and wet mill ethanol production as well as monthly production of co-products. This exploratory data analysis work is based on the Grain Crushing and Co-Products Production report published by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA-NASS). Grain crushing and co-products had been reported by a different agency and NASS’ survey-based approach started in Feb 19, 2015 under the Current Agricultural Industrial Reports program. This analysis is based on the NASS data published from Feb. 19, 2015 to Dec. 3, 2016, which covers a two year time period.

Total AMount o corn consumed for alcohol and other purposese

The total amount of corn consumed for alcohol and other uses from October 2014 to October 2016 is shown in Figure 1. The total amount of corn crushed during the first 10 months of 2016 is 4.861 billion bushels, compared to 4.857 billion bushels for the same time period in 2015. This indicates a very small increase of 0.08 percent. 

Corn crush usage during the first 10 months in 2016 was allocated 91.2 percent for alcohols and 8.4 percent for other purposes. These percentages are nearly identical for the same period in 2015. Corn usage for other purposes indicates the total wet mill products other than fuel. Out of total corn consumed for alcohols during the first 10 months, 89.4 percent was for fuel alcohols, 1.2 percent for industrial alcohols, and 0.6 percent for beverage alcohols. 

Figure 2 breaks down the monthly corn usage for dry and wet mill fuel alcohols production. Corn usage in the first 10 months in 2016 for dry mill ethanol production was averaged 89 percent, with the remaining 11 percent used in wet mill ethanol production. While there is some month-month fluctuation, these percentages are nearly identical for the same period in 2015. 

The total amount of corn crushed only for fuel alcohols during the first 10 months of 2016 is 4.345 billion bushels, compared to 4.334 billion bushels for the same time period in 2015. This indicates a very small increase of 0.3 percent.

Monthly corn usage in dry mill and wet mill ethanol producers

Dry Mill Ethanol Plants Co-Products

Next, we look at total production of co-products from dry mill ethanol plants from October 2014 to October 2016, excluding condensed distillers solubles syrup. As shown in Figure 3, Distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) and Distillers wet grains (DWG) with moisture content of 65 percent or more are the two major dry mill co-products for the last two-years.

U.S. Dry Mill Ethanol Plants DDGS and DWG production

The total production of DDGS during the first 10 months in 2016 was 19.05 million tons, compared to 18.4 million tons during the same period in 2015, an increase of 3 percent. The total production of DWG with moisture content of 65 percent or more during the first 10 months in 2016 is 12.52 million tons, compared to 13.3 million tons for the same period in 2015, a decrease of 6 percent. 

Figure 4 shows the monthly production of Distillers Dried Grains (DDG) and Modified DWG (Moisture content 40% to 60%) from October 2014 to October 2016. The total production of DDG for the first 10 months in 2016 is 3.99 million tons, a decrease of 7 percent from the same period in 2015. Similarly, the total production of modified DWG for the first 10 months in 2016 is 3.98 million tons, compared to 3.99 million from October 2015 to October 2016 showing a very slight decrease of 0.2 percent.

U.S. Dry Mill Ethanol Plants DDG and Modified DWG Production

Figure 5 shows the monthly production of Corn Distillers oil (CDO) from October 2014 to October 2016. The total CDO production during the first 10 months in 2016 is 1.3 million tons, compared to 1.13 million tons during the same period in 2015, a significant increase of 15 percent. The usage of CDO has become very attractive in both biodiesel and the animal feed industry. More than 95 percent of ethanol plants have the technological capacity to extract oil, and some of the best ethanol plants are extracting 1 pound of CDO per bushel of corn. Therefore, it’s not surprising CDO production has been soaring.

U.S. Dry Mill Ethanol Plants Corn Distillers oil production

 

Wet Mill Ethanol Plants Co-Products

Total production of co-products from wet mill ethanol plants from October 2014 to October 2016 excluding crude corn oil are shown in Figure 6. Corn gluten feed and wet corn gluten feed with moisture content of 40% to 60% are the two major wet mill co-products. Corn gluten meal and corn germ meal are two minor co-products, with the total monthly production staying below 100,000 tons.

U.S. Wet Mill Ethanol Plants Co-products production

The total production of corn gluten feed during the first 10 months in 2016 is 3.29 million tons, compared to 3.23 million tons for the same period in 2015. The total production of corn gluten feed with moisture content of 40% to 60% during the first 10 months of both 2015 and 2016 is almost identical at 3.02 million tons.

National Average Ethanol Yield

How many gallons of fuel ethanol can be obtained from one bushel of corn grind? From the data available, we cannot directly answer that question but here we are trying address it in a crude way. A more ambitious approach is beyond the scope of this article. 

The total usage of sorghum in fuel ethanol production during the first 10 months in 2016 is 117.1 million bushels compared to 4,345 million bushels of corn for the same time period.  We don’t have data on the total monthly ethanol production from dry mill sorghum sources. Since corn grind makes up 99.98 percent of feedstock for fuel ethanol, we can directly calculate the ethanol yield by dividing fuel ethanol production by corn grind.

We take the monthly corn consumption data on fuel ethanol production from the USDA-NASS and also use monthly fuel ethanol production data from the U.S. Bioenergy Statistics published by the USDA’s Economic Research Service (USDA-ERS). Figure 6 illustrates the U.S. monthly average fuel ethanol yield from corn.

Monthly average ethanol yeild per bushel of corn

As seen in Figure 7, ethanol yield set a record high of 3.0 gallons per bushel of corn crush in March 2016 and has slipped back to 2.84 gallons per bushel by October 2016. Comparing crush yield data of October 2014 to October 2016, there has been very small increase of 0.9 percent in ethanol yield. The average ethanol yield for the first 10 months in 2016 stands at 2.92 gallons per bushel, compared to 2.83 gallons per bushel for the same period in 2015, an increase of 3.1 percent. It will be interesting to see if the relatively high ethanol yields seen in the April-July 2016 period can be replicated in 2017.

Conclusions

We find that the total amount of corn crushed for alcohols and other uses during the first 10 months of 2016 has increased very slightly from the same period in 2015. Similarly, the total amount of corn crushed only for fuel alcohols during the first 10 months of 2016 has increased very slightly from the same period in 2015. Out of total corn crushed for fuel ethanol, dry mill plants consumed average 89 percent and with the remaining 11 percent used in wet mill plants. 

The total production of DDGS has increased by 3 percent during the first 10 months in 2016 from the same period in 2015. The total production of DWG with moisture content of 65 percent or more during the first 10 months in 2016 has decreased by 6 percent from the same period in 2015. Total production of CDO has soared by 15 percent during the first 10 months in 2016, compared to the same period in 2015. We find that the average ethanol yield for the first 10 months in 2016 has increased by approximately 3 percent, compared to the same time period in 2015.

References

USDA-ERS (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service), 2016. U.S. Bioenergy Statistics. Downloaded January 5, 2017.

USDA-NASS (USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service), 2016. Grain Crushings and Co-Products Production. Multiple reports. Downloaded December 15, 2016.

We thank Sue Retka-Schill for helpful initial discussion on this topic.