Houston — US ethanol production averaged 1.044 million b/d in the week ended February 23, down 24,000 b/d from the prior week, Energy Information Administration data showed Wednesday.
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Compared with the same week last year, production was 10,000 b/d, or 0.97%, higher. Production was below market expectations.
After capacity expansions over the past several years, production above 1 million b/d appears to be the new normal.
Total stocks climbed modestly on the week. Inventories rose 226,000 barrels to 22.979 million barrels.
Total inventories were 112,000 barrels below last year's level, the first time since March 2017 that inventories have been down year on year.
The Gulf Coast led the build as the region added 239,000 barrels.
Robust exports continued to flow out of the region, encouraging market participants to move product into the area, raising stocks.
Arbitrages to Southeast Asia and Brazil started the year wide open, encouraging a flurry of cargo bookings.
The Midwest also saw a strong stock increase as it added 197,000 barrels to finish the week at its highest level in nearly a year.
The Midwest is host to the largest number of ethanol plants out of all US regions.
Flooding along the Illinois River may have contributed to some logistical difficulties moving product out of the region.
Market participants have also said domestic arbitrages have not been open, keeping product in storage within the region.
East Coast stocks saw a 211,000-barrel decline. Stocks in the region had been high in recent weeks as some market participants took advantage of high premiums.
But as the pricing curve has flattened out, interest in the East Coast has waned.
The West Coast also shed inventory, declining 9,000 barrels as the EIA has reported no imports for the past 12 consecutive weeks.
The West Coast is the most common destination for imports as Brazilian sugarcane-based ethanol generates both D5 RINs and Low Carbon Fuel Standard credits under California's LCFS.
The four-week rolling average of the refiner and blender net ethanol input rose 5,000 b/d to 878,000 b/d, while the weekly average fell 9,000 b/d to 876,000 b/d.
The four-week rolling average of gasoline demand, represented by product supplied, slid 46,000 b/d to 9.008 million b/d, while the weekly average fell 142,000 b/d to 8.860 million b/d.
The ethanol blending rate, calculated by dividing the refiner and blender ethanol input by gasoline demand, rose to 9.64% from 9.56% the previous week.
US ethanol stocks, February 23 (barrels)
Source: Energy Information Administration