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ACE conference explores ethanol market prospects, fuel quality

Future domestic and global demand opportunities for ethanol and the importance of ensuring its fuel quality as it travels within the U.S. and across the border dominated the first day of general session panels at the 31st annual American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) conference in Minneapolis.

Kristy Moore, Principal Scientist with KMoore Consulting, addressed the hot topic of fuel quality and the concern ethanol producers have over ensuring the product arrives at the destination in specification during her panel “Up to Spec.” “Introducing ethanol to global fuel markets is a top priority for the ethanol industry however this has not been our focus for over a decade,” Moore said. “There are several questions that need to be considered when identifying potential markets.  Looking globally, where can ethanol make a difference?  Where can ethanol be used to improve air quality?  Where are gasoline markets short on octane?  Which countries have adopted renewable fuel programs that are short gallons?” 

Moore said understanding international fuel specifications is another area of focus. “Each country, each state, each customer may have unique specifications that may or may not recognize oxygenated gasoline properties,” Moore added. “My quick assessment is that many global fuel specifications will need to be modified to allow up to 10 percent ethanol by volume.  This takes time and resources to prove ethanol’s value.”

Ethanol’s value based on its high octane and low carbon qualities in the domestic marketplace was emphasized on the panel “Future Fuels” led by Marty Ruikka, President of the research and analysis firm, The ProExporter Network (PRX) and John Eichberger, Executive Director of the Fuels Institute. The speakers provided an overview of future demand for liquid fuels and electricity in the U.S. and discussed the potential role ethanol could play based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent fuel economy and emissions standards proposal (CAFE-GHG).

“U.S. corn yield increases two bushels per acre per year, a 90-million-acre yield increase equals 470 million gallons ethanol,” Ruikka said. “Alongside this rapid rate increase, ethanol exports are continuing to grow and ethanol production capacity. The industry needs to continue to make sure there are new markets available for the increase.”

“Liquid fuels remain the lifeblood of the market, more than 90 percent of vehicles on U.S. roads in 2035 will run primarily on liquid fuels,” Eichberger said. “Demand will decline over time with improved efficiency, electrification, etc. but there is the potential to leverage high octane fuel for greater efficiency, presenting possible opportunities for ethanol.”

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