Fuel ethanol Prices, markets & analysis
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Fuel ethanol: Market overview
The European fuel ethanol market now tends to be self-sufficient market, following a number of years as a net importer.
The difficult economic climate within the eurozone combined with higher fuel costs have resulted in lower demand for fuel, bringing less interest in blending fuel ethanol.
Furthermore, new capacities have started up in Europe, with the 420m litre/year Vivergo plant in Hull, the UK having begun production during December 2012, and the Ensus 400m litre/plant in Wilton, the UK, due to restart in Autumn 2013 following the sale of UK-based producer Ensus to German producer CropEnergies.
This has meant that imports from other regions are not necessarily needed anymore.
The flow of product from the US to Europe has come to an end following the introduction of a €62.90/tonne anti-dumping duty by the European Commission earlier in the year, although sources do not rule out the possibility that this arbitrage could open again in future.
There is also talk that the arbitrage from Brazil to Europe could open should a good sugar crop result in prices being low enough to undercut the European market.
Updated to mid-August 2013
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About Fuel ethanol
The largest outlet for ethanol is a fuel, gasoline extender and oxygenate additive to gasoline. Ethanol also has other uses such as a solvent, the manufacture of a number of chemical intermediates, and as an additive to food and beverages.
Fuel-grade ethanol or bio-ethanol is made from the fermentation of corn or sugar cane although other feedstocks such as sugar beat, grains and other carbohydrates can be used. Second generation processes are being developed to use grasses, straw, and wood and agricultural wastes.
In Europe, ethanol is blended directly into gasoline but is also used to make ethyl tertiary butyl ether (ETBE), a gasoline oxygenate and extender. Some European methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) manufacturers have the flexibility to produce both MTBE and ETBE.
The US is the world’s largest producer of bio-ethanol with most of its ethanol produced from corn. Most cars in the US can run on blends of up to 10% ethanol.
Brazil is the second largest producer but produces its bio-ethanol from sugar cane. Many of Brazil’s light vehicles are flexible fuel vehicles that can run on any proportion of gasoline and ethanol. Brazil has started manufacturing polyethylene (PE) from ethylene made from bio-ethanol.