As political battles persisted on federal biofuels policy throughout 2018, ethanol producers in the United States exported a record number of gallons, according to the latest data from the USDA, U.S. Census Bureau, and U.S. Department of Commerce.
New data released on Wednesday shows U.S. ethanol exports eclipsed the previous record set in 2017 by 25% to 1.7 billion gallons. The U.S. exported ethanol to more than 80 countries. Nearly 11% of total U.S. ethanol production was exported last year.
Brazil was the leading U.S. export destination at 513.2 million gallons, or 30% of the total. Canada was second with 349.6 mg, followed by India at 156.8 mg. The three countries accounted for 60% of total ethanol exports. The European Union, South Korea and the Philippines were other top markets in 2018. Export volumes to nine of the top 10 destinations saw increases above 2017 volumes, with Brazil, the Netherlands, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Colombia showing the largest gains.
U.S. ethanol exports were valued at $2.7 billion in 2018, a 14% increase from 2017 and the highest on record. Undenatured fuel ethanol accounted for 51% of total exports, while denatured fuel ethanol was 43%. Denatured and undenatured ethanol for non-fuel industrial uses made up the remaining 6% of exports.
U.S. ethanol imports remained scarce in 2018, with just 78 mg entering the country. Nearly all of the imported ethanol entered through California ports and was used to meet the state's Low-Carbon Fuel Standard.
Renewable Fuels Association President and Chief Executive Officer Geoff Cooper said in a news release that the numbers were impressive.
"One of the greatest successes for our industry in 2018 was growth in the export market, driven in large part by the sustained international market development efforts of RFA and its partners," he said.
"More than one out of every 10 gallons of ethanol produced in the United States went into the international market -- providing savings at the pump and cleaner air for drivers in more than 80 countries around the globe. This accomplishment is even more impressive when you consider that U.S. ethanol faced punitive trade barriers in several key markets."
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