The official government numbers are in and they confirm that 2017 was an unprecedented year for ethanol exports. According to government data released today and analyzed by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), the year ended with December shipments of 173.3 million gallons (mg) of U.S. ethanol–the largest volume of monthly exports in six years and the second-highest on record (surpassed only by 178.0 mg in Dec. 2011).
The wave of shipments in December thrust the annual total for 2017 to 1.37 billion gallons, up 17% from 2016, 50% more from 2015 and more than double the 2013 export total of 617 mg. Brazil was the leading importer of U.S. ethanol in 2017, receiving a third of total shipments. Exports accounted for approximately 8.7% of U.S. ethanol production in 2017 compared to 7.6% in 2016. In conjunction with today’s data release, RFA published a statistical summary that takes a closer look at 2017 exports.
Four countries accounted for two-thirds of all global shipments of American ethanol in December. Brazil was the top destination at 48.6 mg, accounting for 28% of U.S. exports–a 73% increase over November and a seven-month high. Canada was the second-largest market at 23.1 mg (13% market share), importing 4% less ethanol in December. Meanwhile, China dashed back into the market, importing 22.2 mg (13% of the export market). That was the country’s largest volume imported in 13 months. India rounded out our largest customers in December with 20.0 mg (12% share), a 30% increase over November.
Denatured fuel ethanol exports nearly doubled in December to 82.7 mg, landing at a 72-month high. At 22.4 mg, Canada once again remained the leading importer of denatured product, accounting for 27% of the market. China upped its denatured fuel ethanol imports from 2.4 in November to 16.2 mg in December, or roughly one-fifth of total denatured shipments.. Singapore made its first sizable purchase of American denatured fuel product of the year, importing 13.4 mg (16%). Oman imported 9.9 mg (12%) and the Netherlands re-entered the market for the first time in two years, importing 9.2 mg (11%).
December export sales of undenatured fuel ethanol hit 88.8 mg, growing 68% from November to achieve a nine-month high. Brazil again took over half of U.S. undenatured fuel shipments (48.6 mg). Meanwhile, India purchased 20.0 mg (up 212%), representing a quarter of undenatured exports. China (6.0 mg), the Netherlands (6.0 mg), South Korea (4.0 mg), Mexico (2.4 mg), and Belgium (1.5 mg) were other predominant markets.
Worldwide sales of undenatured ethanol for non-fuel, non-beverage purposes decreased by 67% to 1.0 mg. December exports of denatured ethanol for non-fuel, non-beverage use dropped to a 39-month low of 0.9 mg following an unusually large volume exported in November (9.2 mg).
December was essentially absent of any fuel ethanol imports. As a result, the United States saw a total of 76.5 mg enter its borders in 2017, with more than 99% shipped from Brazil. Imports have averaged just 72 mg annually over the past four years.
Exports of dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS)—the animal feed co-product generated by dry mill ethanol plants—expanded 11% in December to 968,700 metric tons (mt). Mexico has remained our top customer for fifteen months, overtaking China in Oct. 2016. In December, the United States shipped a fifth of all product (200,957 mt) south of the border to Mexico, nearly 40% more than November. Exports to South Korea expanded by 46% to a record high of 126,652 mt. Vietnam imported 92,922mt (down 11%), while Thailand increased its imports of U.S. DDGS by 15% to 84,852 mt, the largest volume for the year. Indonesia (73,218), Turkey (65,226 mt), and Japan (65,126 mt, up 66% and a record high) were other leading destinations.
The United States shipped a total of 11.08 mmt of DDGS in 2017. Mexico was our top customer with 20% of all global sales, followed by Turkey (13%), South Korea (9%), Thailand (7%), Indonesia (7%), and Canada (6%). The remaining third of annual DDGS exports in 2017 was distributed among 46 countries.
A more complete discussion of U.S. ethanol trade last year can be found in RFA’s new publication, 2017 U.S. Ethanol Exports and Imports: Statistical Summary