US biodiesel production ticks up in May, soybean oil use hits 70%

By Ron Kotrba | July 31, 2020

U.S. production of biodiesel rose slightly in May over April, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, as lockdowns from the coronavirus pandemic remained in place for many states during much of the month while other states began to reopen toward the end of May.

Biodiesel manufacturing in the U.S. hit 147 million gallons in May, four million gallons higher than April and four million gallons less than March.

Midwestern biodiesel production accounted for 76 percent of total U.S. production in May compared to 69 percent in April. Overall production came from 89 biodiesel plants with capacity of 2.5 billion gallons per year.

Producer sales of biodiesel in May included 71 million gallons sold as B100 and an additional 69 million gallons of B100 sold in biodiesel blends.

A total of nearly 1.11 billion pounds of feedstock was used in May to produce biodiesel, with soybean oil remaining the largest feedstock consumed at 778 million pounds—representing a 70 percent share of all feedstocks used—compared to 672 million pounds in April and 656 million pounds in March.

The domestic industry’s 70 percent reliance on soybean oil in May is a noteworthy increase from just three months prior, when the 132 million gallons of U.S. biodiesel production that occurred in February consumed nearly 1.01 billion pounds of feedstock, 575 million pounds of which was soybean oil, representing roughly 57 percent of feedstocks consumed that month.

Tallow consumption by U.S. biodiesel producers was cut in half in May compared to April, while yellow grease use was 43 million pounds in May vs. 71 million pounds in April and 115 million pounds in January. Distillers corn oil (DCO) use remained the same in May as in April at 84 million pounds per month, down by more than half compared to January’s consumption of 177 million pounds.

Naturally, one major factor for this trend in rising soybean oil and falling recycled greases for use in manufacturing U.S. biodiesel is the coronavirus pandemic, during which restaurants either closed entirely or significantly cut back output, meaning much less fryer oil being generated; and U.S. ethanol plants having cut production or idled, generating much less DCO for the market.


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