EIA launches biodiesel producer survey, expands available industry data

By Susanne Retka Schill | July 15, 2009
Biodiesel industry data is about to become far more useful and reliable, as the information gathered in a new U.S. DOE Energy Information Administration survey becomes available this fall. The first EIA-22 survey was sent in June to the 176 biodiesel producers holding a Renewable Identification Number registered with the U.S. EPA. The first survey gathered both historical information about annual production and feedstocks for 2006, 2007 and 2008, and monthly production data starting with January 2009.

Fred Mayes, EIA senior biomass and biofuels technical advisor said EIA plans to publish data from the June survey by September, covering the first five months of the year, and issue monthly reports after that. The information will be accessible on the renewable and alternative fuels pages of the EIA Web site. The publication date is generally 90 days after the closing date for the data, giving producers time to file reports and EIA time to compile the data, follow up on inconsistencies that may indicate incorrect data, and contact non-reporting producers. Even with a mandatory survey such as this new one, Mayes said up to 50 percent of the respondents will miss the deadline.

Until recently, data for the biodiesel industry has been difficult to obtain. Since 2007, the USDA has been including estimates for soybean oil used for biodiesel based on data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau in its manufacturing and business surveys. Data from import and export declarations is regularly compiled to give accurate assessments of international trade. The Internal Revenue Service handles information on applications for the biodiesel tax credit. And, starting in 2009, the EPA is collecting information on biomass-based diesel under the reporting requirements for the renewable fuel standard.

The EIA survey will add welcome detail to information gathered from the other sources. In addition to asking for capacity and operating status, the surveys ask for production numbers in gallons of B100 along with stocks on hand, sales and coproduct production. The survey asks for a breakdown of feedstocks used, which will generate detail on just how much biodiesel is produced from various vegetable oils, animal fats and recycled grease. The survey also gathers information about the volume and revenue from monthly sales of B100 and blended biodiesel, plus categorizing end use into on-road and off-road uses, heating and other applications.

Earlier this year the EIA began including biodiesel as a line item in its petroleum surveys of refiners and blending terminals, along with ethanol, which has been tracked since 1993. "We're still chasing down companies that are not reporting, or that are reporting incorrectly," said Mike Conner, survey statistician in the EIA petroleum division. The information is published in the Petroleum Supply Monthly, in the tables reporting refinery operations, stocks, movements, imports and exports. EIA's Monthly Energy Review also includes a Biodiesel Overview in table 10.4, which compiles information from other government departments including the EIA.
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