Media & News

Trade Monitor
August U.S. Ethanol Export Market Lively Despite Brazil’s Disappearance; DDGS Exports Closing in on 3-Year High

October 12, 2018

Trade, Exports


U.S. ethanol exports totaled 119.5 million gallons (mg) in August—up 15% from the prior month, according to government data released this morning and analyzed by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). A new and varied cast of characters has appeared on the horizon with both Brazil and China finally dormant in our export market. In fact, five of the top 10 importers had no imports on the books in July.


For the second month in a row, Canada was our top customer importing 30.0 mg in August for a quarter of U.S. global ethanol sales. However, our neighbor pared back purchases for the first time this year as 20% less ethanol moved across the border in August. The Netherlands stepped up to the plate after a quiet July with 17.6 mg in purchases (representing 15% of the market) for the country’s largest monthly purchase since Oct. 2011. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) re-entered the market with 15.0 mg in ethanol shipments—its largest purchase in 46 months. These top three customers brought in just half (52%) of all U.S. ethanol shipped out of the country, with another dozen scooping up remaining volumes. Total year-to-date U.S. ethanol exports stand at 1.15 billion gallons, implying a record annualized total of 1.73 billion gallons.


August exports of U.S. denatured fuel ethanol rallied by 63% to 85.6 mg, closing in on the record set last December (88.4 mg). Top customer Canada trimmed imports by 22% to 25.8 mg (42% market share), its lowest draw in four months. Additional volumes were purchased by the UAE (15.0 mg, or 18%), Malaysia (11.7 mg, or 14%), the Netherlands (6.8 mg, or 8%), Oman (5.7 mg, or 7%), and Malta (5.4 mg, or 6%)—none of which had made purchases of denatured fuel ethanol in July.


Shipments of U.S. undenatured fuel ethanol in August contracted for the second straight month, shaving off another 19 mg (-44%) to 24.3 mg—primarily reflecting Brazil’s final withdrawal from the marketplace. Sales were split among just four countries as 10.9 mg (45%) went to the Netherlands, 8.4 mg (34%) shipped to India, and Norway and Mexico brought in 2.2 mg and 2.1 mg, respectively. The Philippines (with shipments running an average of 5 mg per month in 2018) and South Korea were noticeably absent in August.


August sales of ethanol for non-fuel, non-beverage purposes expanded 12% to 8.7 mg—more than double the year-ago volumes. American producers shipped 7.5 mg of denatured non-fuel product, an 84% increase over July. Transborder shipments to Canada pushed higher to 4.1 mg—representing the country’s largest monthly purchase since April 2012—while intermittent partner Nigeria purchased 3.3 mg. August exports of undenatured non-fuel product were half of July volumes at 2.2 mg. Saudi Arabia was the lead customer for the second straight month, responsible for 89% of commitments. Remaining volumes were parsed out to multiple countries.


In August, the United States imported 23.1 mg of undenatured ethanol—the second month this year for substantive volumes and the largest monthly purchase in 35 months (24.9 mg entered our borders in Sept. 2015). Undenatured ethanol was supplied in August by Brazil (21.6 mg) and Guatemala (1.6 mg). Total year-to-date U.S. ethanol imports stand at 24.7 mg, implying an annualized total of 37.1 mg.


Exports of U.S. dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS)—the animal feed co-product generated by dry mill ethanol plants—expanded for the third straight month, lifting 4% in August to 1.156 million metric tons (mt). This rally raised shipments 50% higher than a year ago and to a 35-month high. Once again, a disparate cache of customers was responsible for the majority of purchases, with the largest ten markets representing roughly three-fourths of all American DDGS exports in August. Despite a 9% decrease in imports, Mexico recaptured its status as our largest animal feed market at 174,099 mt (15% market share). DDGS exports intensified to South Korea with a 19% increase, yielding a 23-month high of 125,359 mt. Exports intensified in Vietnam with a 26% rise to 86,661 mt—the largest volume in four months. Rounding out the top 10 markets are Thailand (-3% to 94,481 mt), Indonesia (+13% to 87,626 mt), Turkey (-60% to 77,225 mt—the smallest volume in 5 months), Ireland (+258% to a record 58,295 mt), Japan (+91% to 57,056 mt—its largest purchase of the year), Israel (+467% to 49,123 mt), and the United Kingdom (48,265 mt after 3 months at zero). At 991,327 mt, year-to-date exports are running 9% ahead of 2017 and imply an annualized total of 11.90 million mt. If realized, U.S. distillers grains exports would secure the second-largest annual volume on record.



Ann Lewis

Ann Lewis is a Research Analyst at RFA.