Rail Problems Impacting Ethanol Supplies

snow-trainOne impact of the long, cold winter across the nation has been weather-related rail disruptions that are taking a toll on ethanol supplies and production.

The record winter weather patterns that have caused repeated snowstorms have resulted in stalled trains, frozen controls and increased demand for rail cars. All that has made it difficult to move ethanol to the Northeast.

The Energy Information Administration reported last week that stocks of ethanol stood at 15.9, down 2.4% from the previous week, the lowest level of the year so far. Stocks are well below the 20-day supply mark for the second week in a row and on the East Coast stocks of ethanol fell to their lowest level on record last week, at 4.6 million barrels compared to 6.4 million this time last year.

“Naturally, limited regional mobility leads to limited regional supply which can impact prices, but market observers believe this is a temporary situation that will soon be corrected,” said Renewable Fuels Association Executive Vice President Christina Martin.

The backlog in transportation is causing ethanol plants to slow production somewhat. According to EIA data, ethanol production averaged 869,000 barrels per day (36.50 million gallons), down 25,000 barrels from the previous week and the lowest in eight weeks.

The backups have also been delaying grain shipments from last year’s record crop but rail company officials, including BNSF and CSX, say they are working hard to get everything back to normal.

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