Report: Japan’s ethanol blend rate expected at 1.9% in 2020

By Erin Voegele | November 25, 2020

Japan achieved an average ethanol blend rate of 1.6 percent in 2019. The blend rate is expected to increase to 1.9 percent this year due to an estimated 8 percent decrease in gasoline demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report filed with the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s Global Agricultural Information Network.

The report explains that Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry implements Japan’s biofuel policy through its annual target volume of 500 million liters (132.09 million gallons) of crude oil equivalent in the transportation sector through fiscal year 2022. That is equivalent to approximately 823.7 million liters of ethanol. The mandate is currently fulfilled entirely through the use of ethanol to produce bio-ethyl tert-butyl ether (ETBE), which is used as a gasoline additive. The report also notes that revisions in Japan’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emission values for gasoline and ethanol have expanded opportunities for the use of U.S. corn-based ethanol in the country’s fuel.

Currently, more than 90 percent of the bio-ETBE consumed by Japan comes from a single Texas facility that converts sugarcane ethanol from Brazil and corn ethanol from the U.S. into bio-ETBE, according to the report. The remaining bio-EBTE consumed by Japan is produced domestically, primarily from imported ethanol.

According to the GAIN report, Japan consumed 791 million liters of ethanol as bio-ETBE last year. Approximately one third of that volume was made using U.S. corn ethanol. Japanese consumption of ethanol for fuel containing bio-ETBE is expected to reach 856 million liters this year.

Japan only has one facility that produces fuel ethanol. The plant, which takes in rice as a feedstock, currently produces only 150,000 liters of fuel annually. The resulting fuel is used to make an E3 blend of fuel sold at six local fuel stations. According to the report, the ethanol plant currently only operates three months a year.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the USDA FAS GAIN website.