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RFA Sees Progress as Ethanol Industry Advances Toward Net-Zero Carbon Emissions

June 12, 2023

CCUS, Environment, Membership, RFA News


A survey of U.S. ethanol producers shows the industry to be on track toward its net-zero-carbon goal, a new white paper and presentation indicate, with facilities producing ethanol that is up to 55 percent less carbon intensive than gasoline, on average. The findings will be spotlighted in a presentation by the Renewable Fuels Association this afternoon at the Fuel Ethanol Workshop and Expo in Omaha by RFA Vice President for Strategy and Innovation Tad Hepner.


In July 2021, RFA’s producer members unanimously committed to ensuring that, by 2023, ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by at least 70 percent, on average, when compared directly to gasoline, and reach net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 or sooner. A report released at the 2022 National Ethanol Conference identified a workable pathway to that goal. Earlier this year, RFA surveyed its member producers and received responses from nearly all RFA member biorefinery facilities, representing a wide variety of sizes, plants with annual production capacities ranging from 35 to 150 million gallons. These responses came from biorefineries operating in 12 different states, both inside and outside the Corn Belt.


“We’re very happy to see the progress being made by RFA’s ethanol producer members toward the net-zero goal,” Hepner said. “Nearly 8 out of 10 facilities are on track to achieve net zero by 2050 or sooner, but there are some barriers that remain to be overcome, such as access to capital, policy and regulatory uncertainty, permitting challenges, and a lack of clear return on investment. As the nation’s leading trade association for renewable fuels, we have our work cut out for us, and we look forward to the challenge and the opportunity for success.”


Among other findings to be presented:


  • All the survey facilities reported adopting at least one tracked carbon-reduction technology in recent years, and most have adopted more than one of these technologies and practices.
  • These plants have seen a 12 percent reduction in average carbon intensity since 2015/16.
  • Nearly two-thirds of the plants have an approved Efficient Producer Pathway under the Renewable Fuel Standard.
  • While just over a third of the plants currently capture biogenic C02, more than three-quarters intend to adopt carbon capture and geological sequestration technology.
  • A majority of the plants have approved pathways to participate in California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard program, and many also have approved pathways for similar programs in British Columbia, Oregon and Canada overall.
  • Most biorefineries have received a premium value for renewable fuels sold into these low-carbon markets.