When Navigator CO2 Ventures decided to pull the plug on its long-planned Heartland Greenway project, a vast network that would have captured carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from dozens of ethanol producers in the Midwest and Great Plains then piped them hundreds of miles for permanent sequestration, it was a significant setback for the Biden administration’s climate goals. More than that, it showed how large-scale carbon-capture projects face opposition from seemingly all sides and how the lack of a meaningful regulatory framework at the federal level only adds to the industry’s challenges. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the Heartland Greenway cancellation, what it says about the future of similar projects, and what regulatory changes might be needed at the federal level to make large-scale carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) a reality. 

At first glance, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to facilitate increased sales of E15 — an 85/15 blend of gasoline blendstock and ethanol — by putting it on the same summertime regulatory footing as commonly available E10 in eight Midwest/Great Plains states might seem like a boon to corn farmers and ethanol producers. But as we discuss in today’s RBN blog, there are a number of economic, practical and even psychological barriers to broadened public access to — and use of — E15 that go well beyond the specific regulatory issue the EPA proposal addresses. As a result, as we see it, EPA’s plan is unlikely to boost E15 demand in any meaningful way, at least for now.

The Renewable Identification Number, or RIN, market is so misunderstood that even its main participants don’t agree on its financial impact, effectiveness, or even basic fairness. RINs are a feature of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires renewable fuels like ethanol and bio-based diesel to be blended into fuels sold in the U.S. And depending on your point of view — trader, farmer, refiner, blender, consumer, politician — you may have a very different perspective about how the system works. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from our new Drill Down Report that attempts to make sense of the complexities of the RINs market.

The dramatic increase in the price of the D6 Renewable Identification Number a decade ago was one of the more spectacular moves in the history of major commodity trading. The spike in the price of RINs — the credits used to certify compliance with the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) — was brought on by a sudden uptick in demand and stakeholders who lacked sufficiently deep awareness and understanding of the complex RIN credit system. In today’s RBN blog, we use the story of 2013’s “Big Bang” in D6 RIN prices to explain the fundamental mechanism that determines RIN prices, consider whether such a price shock could occur again, and discuss what stakeholders can do to prepare.

Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) are credits used to certify compliance with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires certain minimum volumes of biofuels to be blended into fuels sold in the U.S. There are many types of fuels covered by the RFS and so RIN credits come in different categories. One category, the D6 RIN, applies to the blending of corn-based ethanol into refined gasoline to make the gasoline-ethanol blends we pump into our cars, SUVs and pickups. In 2013, the D6 RIN price skyrocketed 100-fold in one of the most extreme cases of panic buying in any major commodity market in history. In today’s RBN blog, we examine that event and address three key questions: How did it happen, what was the solution, and why does it matter today?

Carbon-capture projects have been slow to take root in the U.S., but that may be changing as a number of companies are now advancing plans to capture the carbon dioxide that results from ethanol production in the Midwest. Ethanol plants are an obvious choice, given that the CO2 resulting from ethanol fermentation is highly concentrated, which makes capturing it more efficient (and less expensive) compared to many other industrial processes. But while the relative ease and economy of capturing those emissions might seem like a no-brainer, convincing the public to go along with those plans has been more difficult. In today’s RBN blog, we look at what’s being planned.

It’s no secret that higher gasoline prices are a problem for a lot of folks, including everyday drivers, businesses and — maybe especially — the politicians who hear the complaints from the first two. Although prices at the pump have been trending higher for some time, they’ve really come to the forefront in the past several weeks following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has stressed global energy markets and sent U.S. officials looking for any and all options to keep a lid on prices. In today’s RBN blog, we look at President Biden’s decision to allow the sale of E15 gasoline during the summer months, whether it’s likely to provide U.S. drivers significant relief from high prices this summer, and how global pressures are moving ethanol prices higher too.

Predictions about what the energy market and the global economy might look like in the future can feel a bit like stargazing — the closer something is, the clearer it appears. But if something is really far away, even the Hubble Space Telescope won’t bring it precisely into view, especially if it’s a still-developing solar system or a distant planet. That’s pretty much where things stand with bioethylene, which could become a shooting star but might also end up as a big cloud of dust. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the developing market for bioethylene: where it’s being made, what changes might make it more economical to produce in the U.S., and its target markets.

Discussions about energy transition and increased electrification are all around us, whether they involve accelerating the ramp-up in renewable power sources such as wind and solar, facilitating the shift to electric vehicles, or switching to alternative fuels like hydrogen. But amid all the talk about the evolution to a low-carbon world — and away from oil and gas — there’s one area that is sometimes overlooked: petrochemicals. In the U.S., most steam crackers use natural gas liquids (NGLs) as their primary feedstocks, and they also consume a lot of energy — two big red flags in an increasingly ESG-focused world. And that’s giving bioethylene, billed as a green alternative to traditional ethylene, a moment in the spotlight. In today’s RBN blog, we look at how bioethylene is produced, how it differs from ethylene produced from traditional measures, and why it may someday evolve into an attractive alternative for the petrochemical industry, even though it’s far from a sure thing.

Ethanol is a biofuel that is found in nearly 98% of the gasoline purchased at retail stations in the U.S., in most cases accounting for 10% of the gasoline/ethanol blend. This high-octane, biofuel has grown in popularity around the world, particularly over the last 20 years, due to regulations that require or incentivize its use. As governments continue to evaluate regulations to control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, ethanol has been overshadowed by some other biofuels lately but it is expected to continue to play an important role as a pathway for meeting low-carbon mandates. Today, we discuss the history, the production, and the still-evolving role of ethanol in the global push to decarbonize.

Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) have grabbed the attention of refiners this spring and summer, and for good reason. The price of RINs –– ethanol credits used by refineries to prove compliance with the federal Renewable Fuel Standard –– have soared, and the credits are having an outsized negative effect on some refiners’ costs and profitability. Part of the RIN price spike can be attributed to concerns that there may not be enough to go around this year, and that the situation in 2017 may be far worse. But the rocketing cost of the credits is also raising questions about whether the largely unregulated and opaque RINs market is being manipulated or even cornered by those hoping for a quick, Powerball-size profit. Today, we continue our review of the RINs market with a look at which types of refiners are hit hardest by high RIN prices, and at whether we might be heading off a RIN-availability cliff.

The rising cost of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) –– ethanol credits used by refineries to prove compliance with the federal Renewable Fuel Standard –– is putting added financial pressure on the refining sector, which already is squeezed by too-high inventories and thin crack spreads. In fact, for some refiners RIN expenditures may soon be their biggest single operating cost category. (Yes, you read that right.) The cost of ethanol credits is being driven up to record levels by several factors, chief among them the concern there may not be enough to go around this year and next. And things may only get worse from there. In today’s blog, we begin a two-part examination of the 2016-17 market for RINs, a regulatory must-do that rankles and vexes most refiners and gasoline importers.

The U.S. refining industry appears to be transitioning from an era of high margins and record throughputs. Falling crude prices at first increased refining margins – especially as demand for cheap refined products like gasoline expanded. Now product inventories are brimming and margins are squeezed. As we explain today the industry can look forward to an extended period of low crude prices while regulatory requirements and the pace of economic growth largely drive refined product trends.

A couple of months back in March 2013, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released proposed Tier 3 gasoline regulations that, if approved, will go into effect on January 1, 2017. The new rules include lower sulfur specifications for gasoline and tighter emissions controls for motor vehicles. Tier 3 also encourages acceptance of higher percentages of ethanol in gasoline. These regulations come at a time when US refinery gasoline blenders are jumping through hoops to handle a flood of new light shale crudes and increased demand for natural gasoline exports to Canada. Today we examines the proposals and their impact on gasoline and natural gas liquids markets.

When we described the quirky workings of the US renewable fuels mandates back in July and August of 2012 the topic was merely brain food for commodity market theorists and sleep deprived gasoline analysts. This month the market for big brother sounding “Renewable Identification Numbers” (RINS) - credited to refiners when they add ethanol to gasoline blends - is suddenly the hottest thing since sliced bread. The price of 2013 RINS shot from a few cnts/gal in January 2013 to an astronomical $1/gal on March 8, 2013. Earlier this week they were trading in the stratosphere, at about $0.70/gal. Today we look at what lies behind the current RIN furor.