Should the ethanol industry promote E30 fuel blend?

Source: By Mikkel Pates , Grand Forks Herald • Posted: Friday, January 22, 2016

Mary Beth Stanek, director of vehicle technologies and government relations for General Motors Corp., says ethanol promoters would be politically wise to focus attention on an octane mandate, rather than a specific blend of ethanol, such as a 30 percent E30 blend. Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates

SIOUX FALLS — Will the U.S. fuel industry get E30 fuel into the marketplace?

That was one of the ethanol-based questions posed at the South Dakota Corn Growers Association annual meeting in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Jan. 9.

Brian West, deputy director of the Fuels, Engines and Emissions Research Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn., said the issue shouldn’t be difficult with owners of flex-fuel vehicles that are manufactured to legally use up to 85 percent ethanol.

“If half of the FFV vehicles on the road today used E30 half of the time, you’re talking about a half a billion gallons of ethanol. That’s half of the production of this state,” West said. New emissions laws a few years ago “opened the door for a new high-octane E30 fuel.”

It’s personal

West, speaking as an individual and not for the Department of Energy, which contracts research at the laboratory, said the road to higher blends of ethanol:

– Maintain the Renewable Fuels Standard, and let the Renewable Identification Number system work. RINs are the way the government keeps track of renewable fuel produced to account for the Renewable Fuel Standards obligations. RINs have value, and can be purchased by producers who need them.

– Maintain the manufacturers’ incentive to build flex-fuel vehicles, which is set to expire in 2019. “If that happens there’s no way FFVs are going to be bridge to the future,” West says. Perhaps the incentive needs to be different than a fuel economy incentive, he added.

– Continue to build out flex-fuel vehicles and delivery system infrastr­­­ucture for E25, a 25 percent blend of ethanol to gasoline. The difficulties of dispensing E30 are not as great as they are for hydrogen or natural gas.

– Offer high-octane E25 or E30 at a “renewable super premium for your flexible-fuel vehicle.” An enterprising retailer could do that, West said. “Don’t tell them it’s high-octane, tell them it’s super-duper stuff, and your car runs better,” he said.

– Continue to expand E15 use. The industry should avoid blending E15 lower octane blendstock for oxygenate blending. “Remember that corn ethanol is a big greenhouse gas win, even when a gallon of ethanol displaces two-thirds of a gallon of gasoline,” he says. “Cellulosic ethanol is even better. Both are better still when a gallon of ethanol displaces a full gallon of gasoline. Don’t overlook other potential fuels,” including butanol.

Promote octane

Mary Beth Stanek, director of vehicle technologies and government relations for General Motors Corp., reminded farmers that her company is still producing flex-fuel vehicles.

Stanek said the U.S. could shift toward the European model of more efficient vehicles and high-octane fuels, which has decreased in price.

“We want to do this, but right now we are in a situation where we have to calibrate for so many different types of fuels that are out there,” including normal seasonal and regional variability,” Stanek said. “If anybody, including ourselves gets too prescriptive about what the (ethanol content percent) should be, it doesn’t work,” she cautioned.