Corn oil was the fastest growing feedstock for biodiesel production in 2013, further strengthening the tie between the ethanol and biodiesel industries.
Dry grind ethanol plants engaged in the extraction process, like the Sunoco Ethanol plant, are currently producing about 3 billion pounds of corn oil, which is sold into three primary markets: domestic biofuels, domestic feed market and the export market (for both feed and biofuels).
As production of corn oil has increased at ethanol plants, utilization by biodiesel plants, the animal feed industry and the export market have kept pace. Looking specifically at biodiesel, between 2011 and 2013, use of corn oil as a biodiesel feedstock grew by a whopping 245 percent, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration numbers.
Prior to 2000, the corn oil market was relatively small. It grew rapidly in 2008, however. That was the year that Renewable Products Marketing Group and other companies began marketing ethanol co-products.
During the second half of 2013, corn oil finally broke the 100 million pound mark not once, but on three separate occasions.
Although biodiesel production seems to be the hottest market for corn oil, its use as a feed additive cannot be easily dismissed. Poultry feed applications seem to be the most popular sector of the feed market, but other groups are beginning to emerge, such as swine feedlots looking for another fat source.
Although the potential for corn oil exists in other markets, it is not yet widely being taken advantage of. Some are thinking of the edible corn oil market, however, advancing into that market would require greater regulation, processing and, of course, capital spending.