Laboratory Will Not Certify Pumps for Gas With 15 Percent Ethanol

Posted on May 9, 2009. Filed under: Blender's Tax Credit, Field-to-Pump | Tags: , , , , |

Laboratory Will Not Certify Pumps for Gas With 15 Percent Ethanol

By CHRISTOPHER JENSEN

The New York Times

May 10, 2009

 

GROUPS representing the nation’s service station operators say they fear the possible legal and economic consequences of increasing the amount of ethanol in gasoline to 15 percent, from 10 percent, a change that ethanol producers have urged the Environmental Protection Agency to make.

The station owners say they fear lawsuits from customers claiming their cars were damaged by the E15 fuel. But they also note that existing pumps are not certified by Underwriters Laboratories as safe for use with E15 — and U.L., which certifies the safety of a wide range of products, says it will not provide that certification.

John Drengenberg, U.L.’s consumer safety director, said previous testing showed that the existing pumps were safe for up to 15 percent ethanol. But U.L. will not guarantee them for 1 percent more, he said.

That means E15 certification cannot be given because there can be slight variations in the mixture of gas and ethanol, Mr. Drengenberg said — E15 might actually include 16 percent ethanol. “It cannot ever be said that this is exactly 15 percent.”

Furthermore, while U.L. says 15 percent ethanol would be acceptable, it cannot retroactively and officially certify the existing pumps for dispensing E15, a spokesman, Joseph Hirschmugl, said.

That is a problem because state and local fire codes usually require stations to use equipment that a third party — typically U.L. — has certified as compatible with the fuel being sold. A fuel with much higher ethanol content, E85 — which can be used only in flexible-fuel vehicles — is dispensed through a different type of pump, which the U.L. has approved.

That leaves service station owners wondering what they will do if E15 is approved.

Those retailers will have two choices, said John Eichberger, vice president for government relations at NACS, an association for convenience stores and gas stations. “One, sell a product with noncompatible equipment, violate those rules and open themselves up to gross-negligence lawsuits,” he said. “Or try to find compatible equipment and replace their entire system. Unfortunately there are no dispensers certified for E15.”

Joseph Hirschmugl, a spokesman for U.L., said his organization knew of no specific problem but must be cautious because adequate testing had not been done.

For the gas station owners, the scary thing is the possibility of an accident or mishap that could result in a lawsuit, said Tim Columbus, general counsel for another service station trade group, the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America. Then people might start asking why uncertified equipment was being used, he said.

In Growth Energy’s request to the Environmental Protection Agency to allow an increase to E15, it insists that service stations won’t have a problem. It says U.L.’s research “supports that existing dispensers may be used successfully with ethanol blends up to E15.”

But Mr. Drengenberg of U.L. says that is not true. U.L. approves of using up to 15 percent ethanol in existing dispensers, he said, but it does not approve of E15.

 

About Renergie

Renergie was formed by Ms. Meaghan M. Donovan on March 22, 2006 for the purpose of raising capital to develop, construct, own and operate a network of ten ethanol plants in the parishes of the State of Louisiana which were devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Each ethanol plant will have a production capacity of five million gallons per year (5 MGY) of fuel-grade ethanol.  Renergie’s “field-to-pump” strategy is to produce non-corn ethanol locally and directly market non-corn ethanol locally. On February 26, 2008, Renergie was one of 8 recipients, selected from 139 grant applicants, to share $12.5 million from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Renewable Energy Technologies Grants Program.  Renergie received $1,500,483 (partial funding) in grant money to design and build Florida’s first ethanol plant capable of producing fuel-grade ethanol solely from sweet sorghum juice. On  April 2, 2008, Enterprise Florida, Inc., the state’s economic development organization, selected Renergie as one of Florida’s most innovative technology companies in the alternative energy sector.  On January 20, 2009, Florida Energy & Climate Commission amended RET Grant Agreement S0386 to increase Renergie’s funding from $1,500,483 to $2,500,000. By blending fuel-grade ethanol with gasoline at the gas station pump, Renergie will offer the consumer a fuel that is renewable, more economical, cleaner, and more efficient than unleaded gasoline.  Moreover, the Renergie project will mark the first time that Louisiana farmers will share in the profits realized from the sale of value-added products made from their crops.

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    Renergie created “field-to-pump," a unique strategy to locally produce and market advanced biofuel (“non-corn fuel ethanol”) via a network of small advanced biofuel manufacturing facilities. The purpose of “field-to-pump” is to maximize rural development and job creation while minimizing feedstock supply risk and the burden on local water supplies.

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