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US ethanol production nears 3.5-year low: EIA

Houston — US ethanol production averaged 943,000 b/d for the week that ended September 13, a fall of 60,000 b/d, or 5.98%, from the previous week, the lowest weekly production since the week ended April 29, 2016 when it was 923,000 b/d, Energy Information Administration data showed Wednesday.

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Production was down 93,000 b/d or 8.98% year on year, according to the data. The drop in production was larger than expected from the market, though an average drop was anticipated due to the ongoing plant maintenance season.

Ethanol prices have been relatively rangebound over the last week, S&P Global Platts assessed benchmark Chicago Argo terminal ethanol at $1.4085/gal on Tuesday, up 0.575 cents week on week.

Crush margins dropped marginally over the past week due but remained well into positive territory. Corn prices have been trending upward week on week with short covering being triggered by bullish news such as concurs on the impact of falling temperatures to the late corn crop. The crush margin between Chicago Argo ethanol and CBOT corn futures was assessed at 7.01 cents/gal Tuesday, from 7.69 cents/gal September 18.

A simple crush margin can be calculated by dividing the cost of corn per bushel by 2.8, the number of gallons of ethanol that a bushel of corn can produce. The resulting number is the cost of corn per gallon of ethanol.

Total stocks fell 738,000 barrels last week to 22.500 million barrels. Stocks were 129,000 barrels, or 0.57%, lower year on year. The change in inventory levels was in line with market expectations.

Inventories fell in four of the five defined regions.

US ethanol stocks, September 20 (barrels)
Location Total Change % Change Change/year
East Coast 7,295,000 -199,000 -2.66% -675,000
Midwest 6,791,000 -612,000 -8.27% -663,000
Gulf Coast 5,260,000 188,000 3.71% 1,089,000
Rocky Mountain 355,000 -66,000 -15.68% 18,000
West Coast 2,798,000 -50000 -1.76% 100,000
Total 22,500,000 -738,000 -3.18% -129,00

East Coast inventories dropped 199,000 barrels or 2.66% week on week to 7.295 million barrels.

Stocks in the Gulf Coast region increased 188,000 barrels or 3.71% to 5.260 million barrels.

Midwest inventories fell the most, by 612,000 barrels or 8.27% week on week to 6.791 million barrels. The Midwest is host to the largest number of ethanol plants in the US.

West Coast stocks fell 50,000 barrels to 2.798 million barrels, despite the EIA reporting 113,000 b/d of ethanol imports into the region. This is the highest import volume for a single week reported since October 12, 2015 when 122,000 b/d were reported

The four-week rolling average of the refiner and blender net ethanol input dropped 5,000 b/d to 931,000 b/d, while the weekly average rose 30,000 b/d to 935,000 b/d.

The four-week rolling average of gasoline demand, represented by product supplied, decreased 138,000 b/d to 9.391 million b/d, while the weekly average rose 407,000 b/d to 9.346 million b/d.

The four-week rolling average of the ethanol blending rate, calculated by dividing the refiner and blender ethanol input by gasoline demand, rose to 9.91% from 9.82%.

-- Sophie Byron,

-- Edited by Jonathan Dart,