Biodiesel imports and exports grow in March

US biodiesel imports set a new first-quarter record of 121.6 million gallons

US biodiesel imports set a new first-quarter record of 121.6 million gallons. The import volume for the first quarter of 2023 was 119 percent above the Q1 2022 volume of 55.5 million gallons and 99 percent over the previous Q1 record of 61.1 million gallons set in 2017.

Biodiesel imports during March reached a record-setting 44.2 million gallons. March imports were 19 percent above February and 39 percent over the 31.7 million gallons imported during March 2022; an increase of 123 percent over the prior five-year average of 19.8 million gallons.

Imports arrived from ten countries, with 86% of the volume coming from Germany, Canada, Spain and Brazil. 2023 Biodiesel imports are averaging more than 40 million gallons per month, which is noticeably above the 2022 monthly average of 19.7 million gallons.

The EPA’s 2023 proposed renewable volume obligation (RVO) for biomass-based diesel increased to 2.82 billion gallons, up from 2.76 billion in 2022. The larger RVO may be less than the market was hoping to see but provides additional opportunities for biodiesel-exporting countries. There is optimism the final RVO will be higher, given that the current domestic capacity already exceeds the proposed 2025 mandate, with significant additional supply expected to come online over the next two years.

Renewable diesel imports

The US Census Bureau does not report renewable diesel (RD) imports directly, but the Energy Information Administration (EIA) does. EIA reporting lags that of the US Census Bureau. February RD imports of 22.9 million gallons were 14 percent below January’s import total but 52 percent over the 15.1 million gallons received in February 2022.

Renewable diesel imports may increase as additional foreign capacity comes online, especially following Neste’s Singapore expansion.

Biodiesel imports account for 4.3 percent of the 2023 D4 mandate and are running at over twice the pace seen in 2022. During the first three months of 2022, only two percent of the mandate was covered by imports, suggesting that imports will be battling domestic production to a stronger degree in 2023.

Adding renewable diesel imports to the total lifts the import percentage total to 6.1 percent of the mandate. Biodiesel and renewable diesel imports accounted for 20 percent of the 2020 mandate, 21.5 percent of the 2021 mandate, and 18 percent of the 2022 mandate. Due to the increased size of the 2023 mandate and strong import activity over the first three months, imports could climb back towards 22 percent of the mandate, or higher, in 2023.

Biodiesel exports

US biodiesel exports are also off to a strong start, although not at a record level. There were 20.6 million gallons of biodiesel exported during the first quarter of 2023, making it the third-strongest Q1 on record. Q1 exports were four percent below Q1 of 2022, and 13 percent under the record of 23.6 million gallons reached in Q1 of 2021.

Biodiesel exports continued to build in March, reaching a three-month high of 11.1 million gallons. This was 98 percent above the 5.6 million gallons exported in February and 26 percent over the 8.8 million gallons exported during March 2022. Additionally, March exports were 18 percent above the prior five-year average and the second highest on record for the month of March, falling just below the 2021 record of 11.4 million gallons.

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