US biomass based diesel imports in 2013

The US is an importer to two varieties of biomass based diesel fuel, biofuel and renewable diesel. In 2013, total US imports of these hit 525 million gal. compared to 61 million gal. in 2012. Two principal factors have driven this increase: growth in domestic biodiesel demand to satisfy renewable fuels targets, and increased access to biodiesel from other countries. As a result, the US switched from being a net exporter of biomass based diesel in 2012 to a net importer in 2013 by a wide margin.

Growth in demand

The EIA believe that the strongest driver in the resurgence in biomass based diesel demand is the increasing Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) target. Both fuels qualify for the biomass based diesel and advanced biofuel targets, as well as the overall RFS target. The total RFS target increased 15.20 billion gal. in 2012 to 16.55 gal. in 2013. The biomass based diesel and advanced biofuels targets increased from 1 billion gal. to 1.28 billion gal. and from 2 billion to 2.75 billion gal. respectively. Biomass based diesel fuels have higher energy content compared with ethanol, and thus generate more Renewable Identification Number (RIN) credits per gal. of fuel produced. In addition, renewable diesel meets the same American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards as petroleum diesel, and is thus not subject to the blending limits imposed on biodiesel.

The California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) also accepts biomass based diesel fuels.

Domestic production and imports

Increased domestic production of biodiesel only partially offset the effect that increased US biodiesel consumption had on driving up imports. US biodiesel production reached 1.34 billion gal. in 2013, a 35% increase over 2012, including a135 million gal. in December. This increase in production during 2013, especially the record levels near the end of the year, was driven in part by favourable blending economics by way of the US$ 1 /gal. biodiesel blending tax credit, which expired on December 31st 2013. Given the elimination of the credit, soybean feedstock constraints, and limited renewable biodiesel production capacity, US imports of biomass based diesel fuels are likely to continue to play an important role in meeting the LCFS and RFS targets.

Global access

The 2013 increase in imports of regular biodiesel were mainly from Argentina, particularly in the final quarter. This most likely resulted from a recent European Union antidumping duty imposed on biodiesel from Argentine producers in late 2013. The EU was previously the destination for most of Argentina’s biodiesel exports. The remaining volumes of regular biodiesel imports entered the US on the East Coast and Gulf Coast from Indonesia and various European countries. US renewable diesel imports reached 210 million gal. in 2013, eight times more than in 2012. Just over 77% of total US renewable diesel imports came from Singapore and entered the US on the West Coast, likely for California LCFS compliance.

Adapted from press release by Claira Lloyd

Published on 05/05/2014

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