First Global Ethanol Summit begins in Washington, DC

By Matt Thompson | October 14, 2019

The first Global Ethanol Summit, sponsored by the U.S. Grains Council, Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association, kicked off in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 14 with presentations from Ryan LeGrand, president and CEO of USGC, and Mike Dwyer, chief economist of USGC.

LeGrand gave an overview of some of the markets for ethanol across the globe, the commitment countries have made to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and how ethanol will meet those goals. “Countries around the world are realizing and accruing the advantages that ethanol offers,” LeGrand told his audience of over 400 representatives from more than 60 countries.

LeGrand said RenovaBio, Brazil’s carbon reduction and ethanol policy, which is scheduled to take effect in 2020, has the potential to double that country’s ethanol market, adding 18 billion liters of new demand. He also spoke about policies in Canada designed to increase ethanol use and reduce GHGs.

“These expanding policies are promising. They’re happening all across the world and they hold so much potential,” LeGrand said. “Countries around the world are realizing and accruing the advantages that ethanol offers.”

LeGrand also spoke briefly about expanding markets in other countries, which Dwyer expanded upon during his presentation. Dwyer said that China is a promising market, if the current trade barriers are removed. The country, he said, is far behind it’s goal of moving to E10 by 2020, and to meet that goal, the country will need to rely on imports. He said that if the country’s ethanol industry were to operate at 100 percent of it’s capacity, they would fall well short of their goal.

He also talked about the Japanese market. He said that the country uses ETBE, of which ethanol is a major component. However, because the country doesn’t practice straight blending, the ethanol blend in the country is roughly E3. He said if the country’s continues its use of ETBE, “they’re not going to get the kind of progress they want.”

Dwyer also expressed optimism about the Brazilian market. “Their national blend rate is roughly 50 percent,” he said. “[It’s] the lowest carbon fuel market in the world. Nobody approaches that. If they hit the targets they’ve got, they’re going to be well over the 50 percent blend rate 10 years out.”

Brazil, Dwyer said, is also an important “laboratory” for dispelling ethanol myths. The country, he said, has been using E27 in non-flex fuel vehicles for several years, helping to show that blends higher than E10 can be safely used in conventional vehicles.

Dwyer said the Asian market is also very promising. He said the region’s low use of ethanol, combined with it’s generally low air quality, make it a market that could see significant growth in the future.

Dwyer said that one of the summit’s goals was to share experiences with ethanol. “We’ve learned a lot in the last 15 or 20 years her in the U.S.,” he said. “Many of you are just embarking. We’re willing to share what we’ve learned.”

Dwyer ended his presentation by offering some advice for countries exploring ethanol markets. Constructing an ethanol refinery is an expensive proposition, he told his audience, and investors need to have some assurance that the government is serious about ethanol’s role in reducing GHGs. “In order to lower the risk threshold, there has to be some acknowledgement that the government’s not going to flip on us,” he said, adding that investing in imports can serve that role. “There has to be some policy stability there,” he said.

“There’s incredible opportunity for ethanol, as countries look to permanent solutions to climate change, cleaner air and cheaper fuel,” Dwyer said.