US demand rises for ethanol-free gasoline — API

I saw this Hydrocarbon Processing article and it reminded me of an experience from my parents living in Florida.  They used ethanol blended fuel in their portable generators, and when a hurricane occurred, the generators would not start because of water in the fuel.  Ethanol has hygroscopic properties, thus attracts and absorbs water.  Boaters have known that ethanol based fuel does not work well in their environment, and so do refiners.  Refiners do not blend ethanol at the site and then send by pipeline to terminals; rather, ethanol is added at the terminals before distributed by truck to gas stations.  My suggestion based on experience from my parents, don't use ethanol based fuels in emergency portable generators... they are typically used infrequently, but when needed, they need to start.

HP Article: US demand rises for ethanol-free gasoline — API

The API and NMMA released new data on demand for non-ethanol gasoline, which is preferred for use by lawn equipment, boats and other recreational vehicles.

Demand for ethanol-free gasoline (E0) is on the rise, growing from 3.4% of gasoline demand in 2012 to just shy of 7% in 2014, according to a chart compiled by API using data from the Energy Information Administration.

“Demand for E0 is strong and growing, and EPA must take  this into account as it prepares to release biofuel mandates for 2014, 2015, and 2016,” API downstream director Bob Greco told reporters in a joint conference call Wednesday with the NMMA. “Consumers want E0 for their boats, for lawn equipment, for recreational vehicles and for classic cars.”    

Strong demand for E0 stands in stark contrast to demand for high ethanol blends like E85 (a mixture of up to 85% ethanol with 15% gasoline), which represents only 0.15% of overall gasoline demand, according to Greco.     

He said that demand for E85 in recent years has been relatively flat, despite more stations offering E85 as an option.    

“We remain concerned that EPA may raise ethanol requirements based on the specious reasoning that E85 is a workable solution,” Greco said. “EPA should not try to mandate a market for fuels like E85 for which there is no      demand while trying to eliminate fuels like E0 for which actual consumers have shown a substantial demand. . .  Consumers’ interest should come ahead of the ethanol interests.”  

“Many boaters rely on E0 to power their vessels,” said Nicole Vasilaros, vice president of federal and legal affairs for NMMA. “E0 is not guaranteed to remain available as a result of the RFS and the influx of higher ethanol blends.     

"An inability to find E0 or a simple misfueling mistake could cause boaters to see engine stalling, corrosion leading to oil or fuel leaks, increased emissions and damaged valves, rubber fuel lines and gaskets," she added.


4 Replies

  • Good timing, good subject!
    Barbara Absher
    314-553-1802 (office)
    314-322-8152 (mobile)
  • I know the past few years if we didn't run the lawn mower "dry" and remove all gasoline before putting it away for the winter, it wouldn't start and required carburetor cleaning in the spring.
  • On the other hand, 100% ethanol (E100) has been a raging success in Brazil and has been shown to be superior to gasoline in performance/racing vehicles. Brazil has a temperate climate and plentiful sugarcane which is beneficial to their ethanol use and production. See links below:

  • Tim,

    I found this article a really interesting read. In addition to my earlier comment about the relevancy of E100 abroad, I'd be interested to read your thoughts on the possibility of E0 disappearing from the marketplace, as the advocates in this article seem to suggest. Do you think this could ever actually happen? Also, do you think E100 could ever be a viable option in the United States? We obviously don't have the same feedstock that Brazil does, and engine design would have to be modified by "Big Auto", but it seems to be a cleaner burning option that could reduce the U.S.'s dependence on foreign oil and bolster a down ethanol industry. This is a very relevant discussion given the article below about the new EPA mandates from this past weekend's USA Today:

    Ethanol groups blast EPA over renewable fuel mandate

    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration Friday proposed lowering the amount of ethanol that must be blended into America's gasoline supply through next year, angering the renewable fuel industry that has fought to keep the volumes in line with much more aggressive targets set by Congress.

    The Environmental Protection Agency unveiled what it called an "ambitious, but responsible" proposal that balanced the Obama administration's commitment to grow renewable fuel use, while acknowledging that congressional forecasts were no longer realistic, given production and consumption changes that have occurred since they were put in place.

    The measure is unlikely to have a noticeable effect on drivers who use gasoline blended with the largely corn-based product.

    Still, any meaningful change in the Renewable Fuel Standard — a 2007 law requiring increasing amounts of alternative fuels to be blended into cars, trucks and other vehicles — could have a sweeping impact in Iowa, where farmers, ethanol producers and rural economies are tied to the mandate.

    The EPA proposed requiring refiners to blend 17.4 billion gallons of renewable fuels in 2016, much of it from corn, but 3.4 billion gallons would come from advanced biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol made from grasses and wood chips.

    The figure was well below the 22.3 billion target set by Congress. EPA officials also proposed 16.3 billion gallons for the current year, less than the 20.5 billion set by Congress.

    Agency officials defended the move, noting the 2016 proposal is 9% — or 1.5 billion gallons — more than actual 2014 production.

    The proposal was released ahead of a court-ordered June 1 deadline. It drew opposition from the oil industry for pushing higher-ethanol blends that it says consumers don't want, as well as from ethanol groups who argued the agency was caving to the oil industry and stifling growth of renewable fuel producers.

    "Today's announcement represents a step backward for the RFS," said Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association. "EPA has to be given some credit for attempting to get the RFS back on track by increasing the renewable volume obligations over time. But the frustrating fact is the agency continues to misunderstand the clear intent of the statute — to drive innovation in both ethanol production and ethanol marketing."

    An ethanol plant in western Iowa.

    An ethanol plant in western Iowa. (Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

    The EPA said it had the legal authority to adjust the numbers to below what Congress intended.

    Among the reasons: Growth in cellulosic ethanol has been slower than expected, gasoline consumption has not kept pace with forecasts, and higher ethanol blends such as E15 and E85 have not been widely accepted.

    Most gasoline currently is E10 — 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline.

    "Even as we recognize the success of the program so far, we also must recognize real-world limitations to the future growth in the near future," Janet McCabe, the acting assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, told reporters. "These volumes actually represent more than gradual growth. They represent ambitious growth and are appropriate in light of Congress' intent."

    Ethanol supporters from Iowa warned the EPA plan would hurt the state. Iowa produced a record 3.9 billion gallons of ethanol in 2014 — about 27% of country's production.

    Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said the proposal "gives in to Big Oil lies and turns its back on consumers, fuel choice and the environment. The Obama administration has no legal authority to reduce the ethanol numbers. For conventional biofuels, this is a path to nowhere."

    Jerry Mohr, an Eldridge farmer and president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, agreed. He expressed concern the EPA proposal was based on "flawed methodology" and would be damaging to the corn industry and rural economies already reeling from a supply glut of the grain and low commodity prices.

    "Now is a critical time for farmers to step up and engage on this issue that will significantly impact our farmers," Mohr said.

    The American Petroleum Institute, a trade group representing more than 550 oil and natural gas companies, said the plan underscores the need for Congress to repeal or significantly reform the antiquated Renewable Fuel Standard.

    A bipartisan group of lawmakers in Washington has proposed bills that would cap the amount of ethanol that can be blended into conventional gasoline at 10% or eliminate the annual corn targets in the mandate. Both proposals have languished in Congress.

    API President and CEO Jack Gerard said the Obama administration is pushing ethanol blends such as E85 that most consumers simply don't want and that are not compatible with most cars on the road today.

    "Some of (the EPA's) rosy assumptions raise questions of how much ethanol can ultimately be consumed," Gerard said. "We're at the point of the government trying to mandate a consumer choice that the consumer is rejecting."

    Contributing: Donnelle Eller of The Des Moines Register