High quality of U.S. corn to yield more ethanol: executive

Large fields of corn growing in fields in Otisco, Indiana, August 25, 2009. REUTERS/John Sommers II

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The higher quality of the U.S. corn crop could yield more ethanol per bushel and divert less of the crop to biofuels, which could raise tight ending stocks by 20 percent, said a biofuels executive on Friday.

End stocks for 2010/11 are estimated by the Agriculture Department at 745 million bushels, the smallest in 15 years due to strong export and domestic demand. USDA estimates 4.9 billion bushels of the 2010 corn crop, or 39 percent, will be used in making ethanol.

During a teleconference, Todd Becker, CEO of Green Plains Renewable Energy, said smaller usage was possible because the 2010 crop was in better condition than the storm-delayed 2009 harvest.

If ethanol yield rates are one-tenth of a gallon higher than projected with the new crop, he said, fuel makers would consume 150 million bushels less than thought.

“Because of lower moisture levels and higher test weights, we think ethanol yield rates will be higher in 2011 than in 2010,” said Becker, a member of the Growth Energy trade group. “We will use less corn to make the same amount of ethanol.”

Another ethanol group, Renewable Fuels Association, projects U.S. ethanol output of 13 billion to 13.5 billion gallons this year. It says 4.9 billion bushels would be needed.

Reporting by Charles Abbott