Avgas production lower than reported

While searching for recent usage stats for auto gas and ethanol production I stumbled across this table in the EIA data. I had never seen this table before when analyzing avgas stats. What an eye opener!

The first thing that struck me as odd is that there is no avgas produced in PADD 1, which is the entire East Coast from Maine to Florida and there hasn’t been any made going back as far as the table goes, which is only back to 2005. Wonder when the last avgas was made in the big New Jersey refineries? The vast majority of 100LL is made in PADD 3, which encompasses only six states: New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas. Clearly most of our avgas is produced in the large refineries on the Gulf Coast.

The most interesting information to glean from the tables is production and usage. Look at Total Product Supplied in 2010: 5,358,000 barrels, which equals 225,036,000 gallons (42 gallons to the barrel) and then subtract the Ending Stocks, 1,096,000 barrels, which equals 46,032,000 gallons. If my math is correct, in 2010, 179,004,000 gallons of avgas was shipped to users. If you look at the 2009 stats it is slightly less because 2009 was a very bad year for the economy. The point being: Where is the aviation industry and the FAA getting the stats showing 300 million gallons a year or even 200+ million gallons a year of avgas? Consider this FAA report from 2009. An FAA officials is claiming that avgas usage is about 350 million gallons a year. Perhaps the date of the report means something.

Every stat I can find from EIA points to about 180 million gallons a year recently and we know it is declining because if you look at any of the EIA long term charts, they are all going down. For instance, see this chart. If you take the five months of 2011 that EIA has data for, we are on a 218,836,000 million gallon a year production rate so far, a 3% decline in production from 2010.

When you go back to 2005 it appears that producers shipped about 243,138,000 gallons of avgas, so usage has declined by about 12.8 million gallons a year or 26% over five years or about 5% a year if I did the math right. Even in 2005 we weren’t close to using 350 million gallons of avgas a yea. that the FAA report claims we use in the US.

One of the reasons this is important is because Swift and GAMI are going to have to make economic marketing decisions based on usage statistics. From the presentations I have seen they are basing their production estimates on the FAA data in reports like this one. I hope they are also considering consulting the EIA data and other data from companies that actually produce 100LL. The two numbers aren’t even close and what is even worse is that nobody is disputing that the market is declining. I wonder if companies that believe that the market is in the 300+ million gallons a year range would continue research and development if they found out that the market is barely half that?

Dean Billing

The GAfuels Blog is written by two private pilots concerned about the future availability of fuels for piston-engine aircraft: Dean Billing, Sisters, Ore., an expert on autogas and ethanol, and Kent Misegades, Cary, N.C., an aerospace engineer, aviation sales rep for U-Fuel, and president of EAA1114.

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