Persistent volatility drives consistent uncertainty for renewable diesel and biodiesel producers. With increased regulatory action and production growth on the horizon, alongside mounting geopolitical tensions, stakeholders need a weekly insight into their operational costs and returns.
US renewable diesel margins surged on a second consecutive week of diesel strength, while feedstock prices posted marginal gains except for soybean oil.
The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) raised its 2023 RD production forecast by 2.4% to 169,000 Bbl/d in its September Short-Term Energy Outlook. RD production for 2024 was forecast at 216,000 Bbl/d, down 0.9% from the previous month’s estimate. The EIA increased its renewable diesel demand forecast by 3.8% to 191,000 Bbl/d for 2023, while trimming its 2024 forecast by 0.4% to 239,000 Bbl/d. The Administration previously cited lower plant utilization rates and more plant cancellations in response to the June 21st release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final Renewable Fuel Standard rule as a reason for trimming forecasts this summer.
Airlines reported 8-10 million tons of SAF across 59 offtake agreements between January 2022 and June 2023, according to data from International Air Transport Association (Iata). The Hydro-Processed Esters and Fatty Acids (Hefa) pathway accounted for 53% of the reported offtakes and 85% of global renewable capacity. Iata reported a SAF blend ratio of 30-40% since 2022.
Darling International Inc. confirmed that the Diamond Green Diesel, Norco, Louisiana, facility was running following a 10-day outage. A fire was reported at DGD’s Norco, Louisiana, facility on August 20. Diamond Green Diesel is the world’s second largest RD producer at 1.2 billion gallons per year. The 750 million gallon per year Norco facility primarily uses UCO, tallow and DCO as feed.
Calumet Specialty Products reported a leak in a steam recovery system at its Montana Renewables Facility. Calumet expects to produce 8,000-8,500 Bbl/d at its Great Falls, Montana, facility during the third quarter, and aims to complete repairs in mid-September. Untreated feedstock makes up 70% of throughput at the Montana Renewables Facility, with reported margins of $1.25-$1.45/gallon for July.
July D4 RIN generation slumped 44 million credits, or 6.4%, from the month prior as renewable diesel and biodiesel margins both deteriorated throughout the month. Domestic and foreign renewable diesel generation accounted for 59% of total D4 generation, up from last month’s 56%. Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) accounted for 0.4% of total D4 generation, down from last month’s 0.6%. Total D4 RIN generation of 4.32 billion credits accounted for 85% of the final advanced obligation and is on pace to exceed the obligation by 2.31 billion credits.
US northeast energy supplier, Sprague Operating Resources LLC, announced August 15 that it is offering renewable diesel for both delivery and transport rack loading at their Bronx terminal, New York City’s largest storage and rack loading facility.
CVR Energy Inc. aims to startup the pretreatment unit (PTU) at its Wynnewood, Oklahoma, refinery by the end of 2023. The plant has been running soybean oil and treated corn oil until the PTU enters service. A catalyst change during the second quarter saw throughput drop to 17.8 million gallons, down from 22.4 million gallons consumed during the first quarter. CVR estimates Q3 throughput of 17-22 million gallons.
PBF Energy Inc. announced August 3 that its St. Bernard renewable diesel facility in Chalmette, Louisiana, is operational. This includes a pretreatment unit (PTU) at the 320MM gallon per year facility. St. Bernard Renewables (SBR) is a 50-50 JV with Italian oil giant ENI.
Vertex Energy Inc. reached 8,000 Bbl/d phase 1 capacity at its Mobile, Alabama, facility during the second quarter. Vertex received federal approval to generate D4 RINs earlier this year. The company announced its first sale of 110,000 Bbl to Idemitsu Apollo in June 2023. Vertex aims to move away from refined, bleached, and deodorized (RBD) soybean as a feedstock citing poor margin conditions. The company will increasingly use DCO, technical tallow, crude de-gummed SBO, and canola oil during the third quarter and is exploring the use of UCO and other fats and greases.
Valero’s renewable diesel arm Diamond Green Diesel (DGD), a joint venture with Darling Ingredients Inc., reported $440 million in operating income for Q2, more than doubling the $152 million recorded last year. RD sales came in at 4.4 million gallons per day, doubling last year’s output. Valero expects renewable diesel output to total 1.2 billion gallons for the year. DGD’s 470 million gallon Port Arthur RD/SAF facility is on schedule for 2025 completion. Half of the capacity will be dedicated to SAF production.
Global Clean Energy secured a $110 million loan to proceed with construction of its Bakersfield, California renewable diesel facility. The project is behind schedule and has run more than $600 million over budget prompting ExxonMobil to nullify its offtake agreement. The 15,000 Bbl/d project is the site of the former Big West refinery and will use camelina as feedstock.
The EPA denied 26 small refinery exemptions covering the 2016-2018 and 2021-2023 compliance years on July 14. The move was consistent with the EPA’s blanket SRE denials under the Biden Administration. The two remaining SREs are for the 2018 compliance year.
Twelve broke ground on a commercial scale power-to-liquid eSAF facility on July 11. The facility is expected to produce 5 Bbl/d, or approximately 40,000 gallons per year, by mid-2024, with plans to rapidly increase capacity. Alaska Airlines, Microsoft, and Shopify already have offtake arrangements with the Moses Lake facility.
HF Sinclair lost a lawsuit seeking the return of RINs used to cover 2018 compliance for its 75,000 Bbl/d Sinclair, Wyoming, refinery, according to Argus Media Inc. The refiner had sought a small refinery waiver from the EPA which was denied in 2019 and upheld in 2022. The Renewable Fuel Standard identifies small refineries as facilities producing no more than 75,000 Bbl/d. A refiner can also apply for a waiver by demonstrating disproportionate economic harm.
ExxonMobil exited its renewable diesel offtake agreement with Global Clean Energy Holdings as the 210mn USG/yr is running behind schedule and overbudget. The energy giant originally stated it would take such action if no product was received by July 2022. The Bakersfield, California facility is slated to run on camelina oil. Global Clean Energy Holdings rejected the notice and stated it has until 30 November to complete the project, according to the Bakersfield Californian.
Cargill announced it has put its Missouri soy crush facility on hold, citing market dynamics. The 62mn bushels per year facility was originally slated for completion in 2026.
Marathon announced that it is on pace to complete Phase II of its Martinez Project with Neste by year end bringing total production capacity to 730 million gallons/yr. Phase I was completed during 1Q23 ramping up 260 million gallons/yr of renewable diesel capacity.
Oleo-X launched a 300 million gallons/yr feedstock pretreatment facility in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The company aims to process low-carbon inedible oils and poultry fat.
Par Pacific announced a $90 million investment to build a RD/SAF facility at its existing refinery in Kapolei, Hawaii. The facility is expected to produce 4,000 Bbl/d of RD and SAF as well as renewable naphtha and LPG by 2025.
Parkland Corp. announced its decision to halt its renewable diesel project in British Columbia, Canada. The company had been coprocessing at its Burnaby Refinery with plans to build a 273,000 gallons/yr RD facility, set to come online in 2026. The company cited rising feedstock costs and advantages to US producers afforded by new credits carved out in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The move could be a harbinger of slowing momentum for the RD industry which has increasingly worried about rising feedstock costs, while the numerous advantages of the US market are likely to open export markets soon.
The Washington State Senate passed a Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) tax credit, following actions from the state of Illinois which issued its own SAF credit with additional tax advantages for the fuel. Washington aims to establish a $1/gallon credit with a $2/gallon cap as additional value can be earned for fuels with lower carbon emissions. The Illinois SAF credit is set at $1.50/gallon and will run from June 1, 2023, through June 1, 2033, making the state the highest returning market for SAF.
Shell scrapped plans for a 550,000 t/yr RD and SAF facility in Singapore. While no rationale was put forth, feedstock supply and the lack of mandates throughout the Asia Pacific region are likely culprits. While feedstock prices have been falling, recession fears have also been weighing on diesel values, limiting margin growth.
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