EIA Boosts Ethanol Production Outlook

OAKHURST, N.J. (DTN) -- In its latest Short-term Energy Outlook released Tuesday, March 8, the Energy Information Administration revised slightly higher its forecast for ethanol production for this year while maintaining its previous outlook for demand.

EIA said ethanol production averaged an estimated 966,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2015, 1,000 bpd higher than the prior month outlook, and is forecast "to average slightly more than that level in both 2016 and 2017."

The agency repeated that ethanol consumption in 2015 averaged 910,000 bpd, while reiterating its forecast for demand to average more than 920,000 bpd in both 2016 and 2017.

"This level of consumption results in the ethanol share of the total gasoline pool averaging 10% in both 2016 and 2017. EIA does not expect significant increases in E15 or E85 consumption over the forecast period," states the outlook.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Nov. 30, 2015, finalized a rule setting Renewable Fuel Standard volumes for 2014 through 2016. EIA used these finalized volumes to develop the current STEO forecast and assumes the 2016 targets for 2017, except the biomass-based diesel 2017 target of 2.0 billion gallons, which was included in the Nov. 30 rule.

EIA continues to expect the largest effect of the proposed RFS targets would be on biodiesel consumption, which helps to meet the RFS targets for use of biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel. Biodiesel production averaged 82,000 bpd in 2015 and is forecast to average 106,000 bpd this year, 1,000 bpd lower than the prior month forecast. In 2017, biodiesel production is estimated at 112,000 bpd, steady from last month's STEO. Net imports of biomass-based diesel are also expected to increase from 29,000 bpd in 2015 to 47,000 bpd in 2016 and remain at that level in 2017.

The agency estimates that emissions of carbon dioxide decreased by 2.4% in 2015. Emissions are projected to decrease by 0.3% in 2016 and then increase by 0.4% in 2017. EIA said these forecasts are sensitive to assumptions about weather and economic growth.