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French biodiesel imports at record high

  • Market: Biofuels, Oil products
  • 28/09/23

French biodiesel imports reached a new high in the first half of this year, with imports dominated by cargoes from Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands.

According to the most recent customs data, imports were a little under 975,000t in January-June, up by 4.3pc on the year and a record for the period. Some 180,000t were imported in June, down from an all-time monthly high of 240,000t in May but still the seventh-highest month of receipts on record.

The country's energy ministry said around 84pc of all biofuels blended into diesel in January-June were first-generation biodiesel, either made from rapeseed or sunflower. This contrasts with Italy and Spain, which are now largely dominated by double-counted biodiesel and hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) , made from waste feedstock. Of the first-generation biodiesel blended in France, 95pc is made from rapeseed oil (RME) and 5pc from sunflower (SME).

As the county's biofuels blending mandate has risen, physical volumes are needed to supply demand and this appears to make France an attractive destination for exports and re-exports of RME, coming short-haul from the Netherlands and neighbouring Belgium. Spain had been the largest supplier to France, but following the 2020 French ban on biodiesel made from palm oil (PME) Spain has consistently lost market share.

In January-June, more than 430,000t arrived in France from Belgium, 325,000t from the Netherlands and 150,000t from Spain. France's only other significant supplier is Germany, which sent 60,000t in the first half of this year, three times the amount it sent in the first half of 2022.

French exports were 235,000t in January-June, down by 6pc year on year and a six-year low for the period. France drew 21,000t of biodiesel stocks in June, according to Eurostat figures. The country had a modest net stockbuild of 7,000t in the first half of the year.

This leaves apparent production — estimated using import, export, demand and stocks data — at around 720,000t in January-June, down by just 1.8pc on the year. Argus estimates France produced around 1.45mn t of biodiesel in 2022, of which around 1.15mn t came from rapeseed biodiesel producer Groupe Avril.

French demand for biodiesel has been tempered by lacklustre diesel consumption, driven by consumers turning away from diesel-run vehicles. Diesel demand was 14.6mn t (605,000 b/d) in January-June, according to petroleum federation Ufip, down by 4pc on the year.

French biodiesel imports 000t

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