Ag Marketing Resource Center launches biodiesel profitability spreadsheets

By Susanne Retka Schill | May 11, 2009
Posted June 1, 2009

Biodiesel producers have a new tool to analyze biodiesel economics. The Ag Marketing
Resource Center
rolled out its biodiesel profitability spreadsheets in its June newsletter. "We put together what we think is a ballpark or typical biodiesel plant in Iowa to give an overview where the industry is going," explained Don Hofstrand, co-director of the AgMRC, an online center hosted by Iowa State University Extension Service.

The biodiesel profitability spreadsheet plugs in the figures for a hypothetical 30 MMgy biodiesel plant based in Iowa including fixed and variable costs and product prices. With the launching of the spreadsheet, the Iowa-based prices for biodiesel, soybean oil, methanol and natural gas will be updated monthly. "We don't do monthly updates for glycerin because we couldn't find a good data series for glycerin in Iowa," Hofstrand said. He was a bit surprised to see how small of a factor glycerin was in the overall biodiesel profitability analysis, he added.

The Biodiesel Profitability Chart is available for downloading at under the renewable energy heading for biodiesel profitability.The Excel spreadsheet is designed so that a biodiesel producer can change the basic values on the "Economic Model" tab to reflect a plant's actual fixed and variable costs and efficiencies to see how those play out throughout the tables and charts. The nine charts built upon data entered in the economic model include analyses of returns per gallon of biodiesel and per pound of soybean oil, breakeven purchase cost for soybean oil and sale price of biodiesel, return on equity, return over variable cost, among others.

Along with launching the biodiesel profitability spreadsheet, the June issue of the AgMRC's newsletter includes the second of two articles by Bob Wisner on biodiesel, "Biodiesel Economics-Costs, Tax Credits and Co-product." His May article covered "Economic Pressures on the Biodiesel Industry."

With the help of Ann Johanns, the data available on the Web site also includes monthly updates of Wisner's supply and demand balance sheets for soy oil/biodiesel and soybeans/biodiesel. The spreadsheets analyzing biodiesel industry data compliment a similar set of corn ethanol spreadsheets available on the AgMRC Web site.
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