While China has traditionally resisted ethanol because of concerns over food security, the country maintains five ethanol plants and produced 2 million tons of the fuel in 2013. Now, U.S. leaders are actively working to build relationships and trust with an eye toward increasing U.S. ethanol imports into China in the future.
"Everyone asked questions about our cellulosic technology, and we actually had representatives from POET, and we had representatives from Abengoa," explains Kelly Davis, director of regulatory affairs for the Renewable Fuels Association, in an interview with AgriTalk. "They had the opportunity to tell everyone where they currently were in their projects, and they were very interested in the technology that the two companies would have."
China’s largest ethanol plant, Jilin Fuel Ethanol Co., produces 175 million gallons annually using corn as a feedstock. The delegation toured the plant and also spent time visiting the National Energy Administration, which is responsible for the country’s overall energy policy; state-owned enterprises PetroChina and Sinopec, which influence national energy policies; and Cofco, China’s largest supplier of agricultural- and food-based products and services.
Ethanol represents less than 1% of the marketplace in the country, which continues to use MTBE. U.S. refiners switched from using MTBE—a fuel additive that raises the oxygen content of gasoline—to blending fuel with ethanol in 2005 with the adoption of the renewable fuel standard.
"Our goals were pretty simple. Our goals were to build relationships and trust, and to open doors, and establish contacts so that we could enjoy some further dialogue for eventual U.S. ethanol imports."
Davis is hopeful that China will import U.S. ethanol in the future.
"I did get a feeling that we opened that door up," Davis says. "It is something that will have to be nurtured."
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