EIA: This Week in Petroleum - 18 February 2021 - eng Избранное

Четверг, 18 февраля 2021 22:03

Ethanol and biomass-based diesel RIN prices approaching all-time highs

The prices of renewable identification number (RIN) credits—the compliance mechanisms used for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—have been steadily rising in recent months and are approaching their highest nominal levels in the history of the program (Figure 1). The corn ethanol (D6) RIN price reached more than $1.00 per gallon (gal) in late January and early February 2021, the highest price since 2013 when the D6 RIN price reached an all-time high. Similarly, the biomass-based diesel (D4) RIN price, applied to volumes of both biodiesel and renewable diesel fuels, approached $1.20/gal during the same period. Although the RFS Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) for 2021 have yet to be released, RIN prices have been increasing because of limited fuel production as a result of lower fuel demand related to responses to COVID-19, fewer approved new Small Refinery Exemptions (SRE) since 2018, and uncertainty around future RFS levels.

Figure 1. Daily spot prices ethanol (D6) and biomass-based diesel (D4) renewable identification numbers (RINs)

The price of RIN credits reflect compliance and trading activity in the RFS and generally increase in two situations. The first typical increase occurs when the cost of a biofuel is higher than the petroleum fuel into which it is blended. The increasing value of the RIN encourages producers to blend renewable fuel volumes into the petroleum pool because blenders of the biofuel are then able to trade the RIN in the secondary market and capture its value. The second typical increase arises when RFS targets increase higher than market-driven biofuel consumption. In this case, the value of the RIN is needed to drive additional, more costly blending beyond normal market levels. In general, only 10% of the motor gasoline pool is blended with ethanol under the existing infrastructure and legal framework, and blending levels higher than 10% are driven by higher RIN values or other incentives.

The first situation best represents current RIN prices because responses to COVID-19 impacts on transportation demand have dramatically decreased fuel prices in 2020. The relationship between ethanol and gasoline, where wholesale gasoline prices fell much lower than wholesale ethanol prices in early 2020, caused ethanol D6 RIN prices to increase to where ethanol blenders would again find it economical to blend by way of capturing higher RIN values (Figure 2). Although wholesale ethanol prices are partially determined by motor gasoline blending demand, they also are determined by ethanol market factors. Some of those factors included corn prices and ethanol production costs, which can lead to higher ethanol prices than wholesale gasoline prices, making blending uneconomical. When biofuel prices are no longer competitive with their petroleum counterparts, RFS obligations drive RIN prices to increase to help biofuel blending reach the RFS target levels despite significantly lower motor fuel demand.

Figure 2. Daily spot prices of wholesale gasoline, ethanol, and renewable identification numbers (RINs)

Similarly, biomass-based diesel (both biodiesel and renewable diesel) has traditionally been more costly to produce than petroleum diesel and has regularly required incentives, such as RIN values and the biomass-based diesel tax credit (BTC), to make biomass-based diesel fuels competitive with diesel fuel. Because of responses to COVID-19 in 2020, diesel fuel prices fell significantly lower than their renewable counterparts, driving biomass-based diesel D4 RIN prices higher to increase demand for the biofuels, such as with biodiesel (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Daily spot prices of wholesale diesel, biodiesel, and renewable identification numbers (RINs)

In the second half of 2020, an already limited supply of available RINs was further tightened because market participants had started to react to news of administrative and legal Small Refinery Exemptions decisions. Some small refiners that had previously been exempt from the RFS and were net sellers of RINs had become buyers of RINs for their own compliance. This situation lent itself to tighter RFS compliance levels, the number of obligated parties increased and RFS driven volumes were higher. This situation increased demand for RINs, either traded on the open market or by increased demand and blending, for obligated parties to meet their 2020 Final RVO targets for RFS compliance (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Daily spot prices of wholesale diesel, biodiesel, and renewable identification numbers (RINs)

As consumption of gasoline and diesel fuel fell in 2020, the total volumetric RFS requirements fell by an estimated 1.4 billion gallons (7%), while actual biofuel RIN generation according to official EPA data fell short of this estimated adjusted level by more than 0.8 billion gallons (Figure 4). Actual RIN generation likely fell short in 2020 because of unfavorable blending economics for ethanol relative to low gasoline prices, which led to idled ethanol production capacity. As gasoline demand gradually recovered, the demand for ethanol and D6 RINs increased, subsequently increasing RIN prices over the year.

Uncertainty around future RFS targets is also likely adding some upward pressure to RIN prices. Typically, RVO targets are released in November for the coming year, but currently the 2021 RVO targets are yet be finalized and announced. In addition, whether the number of approved SREs will decrease in the future remains uncertain. In an uncertain situation where RFS targets could strengthen, some market participants may be holding RINs for an uncertain compliance level.

In its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts that consumption of ethanol and biomass-based diesel will continue to grow during the next two years, primarily because of increasing RIN prices and expected higher RFS targets. EIA estimates that U.S. ethanol consumption, which averaged 949,000 barrels per day (b/d) in 2019, fell 13% to an average of 825,000 b/d in 2020. EIA forecasts that ethanol consumption will gradually return to pre-pandemic 2019 levels during the forecast period, largely following the recovery in domestic motor gasoline consumption. However, growth in higher blending levels of ethanol will be limited. EIA forecasts ethanol consumption will average 881,000 b/d in 2021 and 913,000 b/d in 2022. Biomass-based diesel consumption is forecast to average 153,000 b/d in 2021 and 176,000 b/d in 2022, compared with an average of 136,000 b/d in 2019 and 140,000 b/d in 2020.

U.S. average regular gasoline and diesel prices increase

The U.S. average regular gasoline retail price increased 4 cents to $2.50 per gallon on February 15, 7 cents higher than the same time last year. The Rocky Mountain price increased more than 6 cents to $2.39 per gallon, the Gulf Coast price increased more than 5 cents to $2.22 per gallon, the West Coast price increased more than 4 cents to $3.04 per gallon, the Midwest price increased nearly 4 cents to $2.40 per gallon, and the East Coast price increased more than 3 cents to $2.47 per gallon.

The U.S. average diesel fuel price increased nearly 8 cents to $2.88 per gallon on February 15, 1 cent lower than a year ago. The Midwest price increased more than 10 cents to $2.85 per gallon, the Rocky Mountain price increased nearly 9 cents to $2.79 per gallon, the West Coast price increased 7 cents to $3.33 per gallon, the Gulf Coast price increased more than 6 cents to $2.63 per gallon, and the East Coast price increased more than 5 cents to $2.90 per gallon.

Propane/propylene inventories decline

U.S. propane/propylene stocks decreased by 2.9 million barrels last week to 48.6 million barrels as of February 12, 2021, 4.8 million barrels (9.0%) less than the five-year (2016-2020) average inventory levels for this same time of year. Midwest, East Coast, Gulf Coast, and Rocky Mountain/West Coast inventories decreased by 1.6 million barrels, 0.8 million barrels, 0.4 million barrels, and 0.1 million barrels, respectively.

Residential heating fuel prices increase

As of February 15, 2021, residential heating oil prices averaged more than $2.75 per gallon, almost 9 cents per gallon higher than last week’s price but nearly 15 cents per gallon lower than last year’s price at this time. Wholesale heating oil prices averaged more than $1.91 per gallon, almost 8 cents per gallon above last week’s price and more than 11 cents per gallon above last year’s price.

Residential propane prices averaged nearly $2.29 per gallon, more than 6 cents per gallon higher than last week’s price and almost 31 cents per gallon above last year’s price. Wholesale propane prices averaged nearly $1.17 per gallon, almost 8 cents per gallon above last week’s price and more than 60 cents per gallon above last year’s price.

For questions about This Week in Petroleum, contact the Petroleum Markets Team at 202-586-4522.


Retail prices (dollars per gallon)

Conventional Regular Gasoline Prices Graph. Residential Heating Oil Prices Graph. On-Highway Diesel Fuel Prices Graph. Residential Propane Prices Graph.
 Retail pricesChange from last
 02/15/21WeekYear
Gasoline 2.501 0.040 0.073
Diesel 2.876 0.075 -0.014
Heating Oil 2.752 0.085 -0.147
Propane 2.288 0.064 0.307

Futures prices (dollars per gallon*)

Crude Oil Futures Price Graph. RBOB Regular Gasoline Futures Price Graph. Heating Oil Futures Price Graph.
 Futures pricesChange from last
 02/12/21WeekYear
Crude oil 59.47 2.62 7.42
Gasoline 1.693 0.044 0.110
Heating oil 1.771 0.057 0.073
*Note: Crude oil price in dollars per barrel.

Stocks (million barrels)

U.S. Crude Oil Stocks Graph. U.S. Distillate Stocks Graph. U.S. Gasoline Stocks Graph. U.S. Propane Stocks Graph.
 StocksChange from last
 02/12/21WeekYear
Crude oil 461.8 -7.3 18.9
Gasoline 257.1 0.7 -2.0
Distillate 157.7 -3.4 17.1
Propane 48.649 -2.897 -20.077
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