Chinese biomass-based diesel (BBD) exports are surging, according to a report by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported by Biodiesel magazine.

Exports of used cooking oil (UCO)-based biodiesel and hydrogenation-derived renewable diesel (HDRD) increased significantly in the first half of this year due to strong demand from the European Union (EU), the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) China: Biofuels Annual report said.

At 3.7bn litres/year (977.44M gallons), biodiesel production had held relatively steady, Biodiesel magazine wrote on 9 October.

Sizeable expansions were expected at export-orientated HDRD plants, with 3bn litres of capacity forecast to be online by the end of this year and an additional 1.2bn litres of capacity planned.

China was expected to have 48 biodiesel plants in operation by the end of 2023 with a combined production of 3.7bn litres, up from 46 plants with a combined production of 3.5bn litres the previous year and 44 plants with a combined production of 3.3bn in 2021. Capacity utilisation was expected to reach 51% this year, up from 43% last year and 37% in 2021.

By the end of this year, China was also expected to have HDRD facilities in operation, with a combined production of 3bn litres, up from 11 facilities in 2022 with a production of 2bn litres and nine facilities in 2021 with production of 1bn litres. Capacity use was expected to be 47% this year, a level of use maintained from 2022. Capacity use was at 62% in 2021.

Approximately 1.815M tonnes of UCO was expected to be used to produce biodiesel this year, up from 1.42M tonnes in 2022 and 1.16M tonnes in 2021. UCO is also used to produce HDRD, with 1.31M tonnes expected to be consumed this year, up from 880,000 tonnes in 2022 and 580,000 tonnes in 2021.

Total production of biodiesel and HDRD was expected to reach 3.3bn litres in 2023, up from 2.43bn litres in 2022 and 1.834bn litres in 2021.

Domestic consumption was forecast to reach 850M litres this year, up from 734M litres in 2022 and 564M litres in 2021.

Meanwhile, China’s BBD imports in 2023 were up 40% compared to the previous year with more than 90% palm oil biodiesel from Indonesia and Malaysia.

China was expected to import 500M litres of bio-based diesel fuels this year, up from 358M litres in 2022 and 204M litres in 2021.

Exports were expected to total 2.95bn litres, including 1.32bn litres of HDRD, this year compared to 2.054bn litres – including 900M litres of HDRD – in 2022, and 1.475bn litres, including 600M litres of HDRD, in 2021.