US ethanol plant capacity increases for third consecutive year

US ethanol production capacity by region 2014-206
US ethanol production capacity by region 2014-206

Fuel ethanol production capacity in the US was nearly 15 billion gallons per year, or 973,000 barrels per day (b/d), at the beginning of 2016.

The numbers are reported in the US Energy Information Administration's (EIA) most recent US Fuel Ethanol Plant Production Capacity report.

Total capacity of operable ethanol plants increased by more than 500 million gallons per year 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 gallons per year (883,000 b/d), an increase of more than 500 million gallons 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 gallons (966,000 b/d) in 2015.

In EIA's August Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), US production of fuel ethanol was forecast to reach 15.1 billion gallons (982,000 b/d) 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 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.

US ethanol production capacity by region 2014-206