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Thai ethanol producers mull resuming exports after 5 years amid ample supply

Singapore — Thailand's ethanol producers are exploring the possibility of resuming ethanol exports after a five-year hiatus due to ample supply in the domestic market, trade sources said Tuesday.

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The country halted ethanol exports in 2013 amid prevailing high domestic prices and demand, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics.

However, Thailand's total ethanol production was now at 6 million liters/day while demand was at 4 million liters/day, a Thai cassava-based ethanol producer said.

"There is no export restriction. Sellers only need to fill up a form and if the government deems supply to be more than demand, we can export," the producer said.

Thai-origin cassava-based ethanol is currently being offered at around Baht 23.4/liter ($704/cu m) ex-factory and molasses-based ethanol at Baht 22-23/liter ($662-$692/cu m) ex-factory.

However, traders were skeptical of Thailand returning to the export market as current international prices, dominated by US and Brazil origin ethanol, were much lower.

S&P Global Platts assessed fuel ethanol at $458/cu m CIF Philippines on Monday.

The most likely potential export market for Thai fuel ethanol would be China, where it is exempted from import duties due to a free trade agreement.

However, the arbitrage opportunity for Thai ethanol to China currently remains shut even with the import duty advantage over US and Brazilian origin, a Southeast Asian trader said.

Domestic prices in China were around Yuan 5,600-5,800/mt ex-factory on Monday, putting the import parity for Thai origin at around $570-$590/cu m.

Gasohol is a blend of ethanol and gasoline. Thailand has a minimum blending of 10% ethanol (E10) and the government encourages E20 and E85 through incentives such as lower prices at the pump.

According to Thailand's Ministry of Energy, total gasohol demand is currently around 96% of total gasoline/gasohol consumption. The higher ethanol blends of E20 and E85 comprise around 20% of that, the data showed.

--Christina Siantar, christina.siantar@spglobal.com

--Kathlyn Saillen, kathlyn.saillen@spglobal.com

--Edited by Wendy Wells, wendy.wells@spglobal.com