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Abengoa's Rotterdam plant outage boosts European ethanol margins

News Source:http://www.jinchemical.com/ ; SendDate:2013-3-18 17:15:02 
The unexpected shutdown of Spanish Abengoa's 480 million liter/year Rotterdam ethanol plant in mid-December has helped boost grains-to-ethanol crushing margins in Northwest Europe to multi-month highs, data compiled by Platts show.

Abengoa's Rotterdam refinery -- Europe's largest ethanol production facility by nameplate capacity -- was shut down at the end of last year due to safety issues, local Dutch TV station RTV Rijnmond reported on its website.

RTV Rijnmond said the plant would be down for at least three months, citing multiple unnamed sources.

Abengoa neither commented nor provided a definitive date for a restart. Since the shutdown, grains-to-ethanol crush margins, which serve as indicators of the profitability of turning starch grains into the biofuel, have soared to multi-month highs.

The outright ethanol spot price in Rotterdam has fallen 1.7% since news of the shutdown hit the market December 13 to Eur626/cubic meter ($813.42/cu m) FOB Thursday, according to Platts data.

Rotterdam is Europe's biggest biofuel trading hub.

But grains costs as measured by front-month futures contracts have fallen at a faster pace due to improved prospects for the upcoming 2013-14 season.

Euronext Nyse milling wheat futures in London fell the most, retreating 9.3% since December 13 to GBP195.25/mt (Eur226.41/mt) Thursday, while Euronext Nyse milling wheat and corn futures in Paris fell 8.3% and 8.2% to Eur234.50/mt and Eur224/mt, respectively.

Since Abengoa switched off its plant, the feed wheat-to-ethanol and the milling-to-ethanol crush margins surged to near six-month highs, according to Platts data. They touched Eur27.97/mt and Eur2.25/mt March 12, respectively, the highest since September 19.

Meanwhile, the corn-to-ethanol crush margin surged to Eur43.43/mt March 4, the strongest since September 20.

The crush margin is calculated by measuring nearby futures settlements against Platts' ethanol price assessments. Some 2.7 mt of starch grains are necessary to produce one cu m of ethanol, according to sources.

Overall profit margins of grains-based ethanol producers also depend on cash generated from sales of DDG, a high protein animal feed product that can make up to 30-40% of an ethanol distillery's operational income.
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