FocusIndonesia PME heads to US; EU clamps down on biodiesel imports

13 February 2013 05:01  [Source: ICIS news]

By Heng Hui

Palm plantation in IndonesiaSINGAPORE (ICIS)--Indonesia may opt to ship out more palm methyl ester (PME) cargoes to the US in the coming months, as Europe – the southeast Asian country’s biggest market for the product – has effectively restricted imports of biodiesel, industry sources said on Wednesday.

The US will be needing more of the material this year following reinstatement of a government incentive that promotes the use of more environment-friendly fuel or “green” fuel, they said. PME is a type of biodiesel that is derived from crude palm oil (CPO).

In Europe, on the other hand, an ongoing investigation on imported biodiesel originating in Indonesia and Argentina are making buyers nervous over a possible retroactive implementation of antidumping duties (ADDs) once they are finalised this year.

Europe imported about a third of Indonesia’s 3m tonnes of PME output in 2012, with no recorded shipments from southeast Asia to the US, industry sources said.

Strong buying indications from the US this year saw southeast Asia PME prices rising to $970-1,050/tonne (€718-777/tonne) FOB (free on board) SE Asia on 7 February, up from the low-$800/tonne FOB SE Asia levels in early January, according to ICIS.

“There has been a lot of prompt demand that we cannot fulfil because of the long shipment times from Indonesia to the US,” a major Indonesia biodiesel producer said.

In January 2013, the US Congress reinstated the tax credit of $1.00/gal for biodiesel, with retroactive implementation to cover the whole of last year – a positive development for Indonesian PME producers that are looking for an alternative market to Europe, industry sources said.

The policy change  is expected to fuel US’ demand for biodiesel this year, they said.

The US’ biodiesel subsidy withdrawn in 2012 by the Obama administration, citing that it is costly to the government, leading to a sharp decline in green fuel production in the country.

If the tax incentive were in place last year, the US industry would have produced 300m gallons more biodiesel, according to media reports citing a study by consulting firm Cardno Entrix.

Theoretically, with the incentive, blenders will be able to afford biodiesel at the price of heating oil plus $1.00/gal, as a maximum purchase price, according to a market observer. At midday, the Nymex March heating oil futures were at $3.24/gal.

In EU countries, on the other hand, a mandatory registration of all diesel imports from Indonesia and Argentina took effect on 30 January 2013 and will remain in place for nine months, as their trading regulatory body - the European Commission (EC) - is collating fresh data to determine dumping claims by its regional players. The probe is expected to be completed in the third quarter of this year.

On concerns over a retroactive implementation of ADDs, EU countries have shied away from buying Indonesian PME since last year. The region’s volume of PME imports from Indonesia had gone down by about 30% last year from around 1.4m tonnes in 2011, a major Indonesian producer said.

($1 = €0.74)

Read John Richardson and Malini Hariharan’s blog – Asian Chemical Connections


By: Heng Hui
+65 6780 4359



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