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EIA: increase in US ethanol plant capacity

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Fuel ethanol production capacity in the United States was nearly 15 billion gal./y, or 973 000 bpd, at the beginning of 2016, according to EIA's most recent US Fuel Ethanol Plant Production Capacity report. Total capacity of operable ethanol plants increased by more than 500 million gal./y in January 2016 compared with January 2015.

The majority of the 195 ethanol plants, and most of the US fuel ethanol production capacity, are located in the Midwest region (as defined by Petroleum Administration for Defense Districts). Total nameplate capacity in the Midwest was 13.5 billion gal./y (883 000 bpd), an increase of more than 500 million gal. compared with 2015. Of the top 13 fuel ethanol-producing states, 12 are located in the Midwest.

Actual US production of fuel ethanol reached a total of 14.8 billion gal. (966 000 bpd) in 2015. In EIA's August Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), US production of fuel ethanol was forecast to reach 15.1 billion gal. (982 000 bpd) in 2016, equivalent to slightly more than 100% utilisation of reported nameplate capacity as of 1 January 2016.

Nameplate production capacity, the measure of capacity that EIA tracks, is the plant manufacturer's stated design capacity to produce denatured (made unfit for human consumption) fuel ethanol during a 12 month period. However, nameplate capacity is not a physical production limit for many ethanol plants.

By applying more efficient operating techniques, many ethanol plants are capable of being operated at levels that regularly exceed their nameplate production capacity, if market conditions provide an incentive to do so. This level of operation, called maximum sustainable capacity, is inherently subjective.

Adapted from press release by Rosalie Starling

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