Assessment of Production and Consumption Capacity of Conventional Ethanol in 2023-2025

EIA lists the U.S. ethanol nameplate production capacity at 17.38 billion gallons per year as of January 1, 2022. How much of this ethanol production capacity can be used is primarily a function of the available feedstock, corn, and the conversion capacity of ethanol plants. We consider three different approaches to determine the real-world maximum potential ethanol production in 2023: historical maximum, previous year, and potential expansion.

The highest year of ethanol production was 2018, when 16.091 billion gallons of ethanol were produced domestically. In 2021, it is estimated that 15.016 billion gallons of ethanol were produced. We believe that both these figures represent conservative estimates of how much ethanol could reasonably be produced in 2023. The 2021 volume was suppressed substantially by low demand for transportation fuel in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And neither figure accounts for the continuing growth in the productivity of U.S. corn growers or the steady improvements in the efficiency of U.S. corn ethanol plants. As explained below in greater detail, these developments have allowed U.S. ethanol production to continuously increase their production capability without requiring increasing corn acreage or adversely impacting the supply of corn available for other domestic non-ethanol demands or export markets. In fact,
we conclude that, accounting for these developments, 16.147 billion gallons could be produced domestically in 2023.