South Dakota County to devise 30-percent ethanol blend plan for vehicles

Source: By Shannon Marvel, Aberdeen News • Posted: Thursday, October 19, 2017

Brown County officials will develop a plan to use a 30-percent ethanol blend in the county’s vehicle fleet.

The move, discussed at Tuesday’s county commission meeting, is in response to Glacial Lakes Energy’s E30 Challenge.

Watertown-based Glacial Lakes operates ethanol plants in Mina and Watertown. Brad Brunner, marketing manager, and Andy Wicks, mechanical expert and test facilitator, were at the meeting. They provided data on vehicles that have been using E30 for the past two years. The vehicles showed an average savings of $3 to $5 per tank of fuel, Brunner said.

On average, using E30 maintained or increased fuel economy in the vehicles tested, Brunner said. Test vehicles included 2004 to 2016 models.

Ethanol retailers in Watertown have seen enough of an increase in sales that two blender pump sites have been added since 2016, he said.

Commissioners approved a motion to develop an E30 plan.

Commission Chairwoman Rachel Kippley said switching county vehicles to an ethanol blend would help drive the local agriculture economy.

“With Brown County being one of the biggest corn-producing areas in the area, the ethanol plants have done tremendous things for this county. We should be investing in ourselves,” she said.

Vehicles made after 2004 adapt easily to a higher ethanol blend, Wicks said. The most common ethanol blend is 10 percent.

“It will work in vehicles back to 1996,” he said.

He said the adaptation process involves increasing the percentage of ethanol blend a little bit at a time, but around 90 percent of all vehicles on the roads today are capable of running on E30.

“We’d run three tanks of 10 percent, then three tanks of 30 percent,” he said.

“We haven’t seen any complaints. I’m in contact with the shops on a daily basis. Now it’s been two years, and if we were going to see problems, we would’ve seen them by now,” Brunner said.

“E30 typically sells at about a 30-cent discount to regular fuel and it’s at a higher octane,” he said.

Highway Superintendent Dirk Rogers said there are 20 vehicles in his department’s fleet. They do not currently use an ethanol blend.

“Ten of them are 2011 or newer and 10 of them should’ve been thrown in the junk yard a long time ago,” Rogers said.

Commissioner Tom Fischbach vouched for the benefits of using ethanol.

“I’ve used it for as long as I could and I haven’t had any problems with any of my vehicles. I’ve got a 2013 with about 60,000 miles on it now,” Fischbach said.

“I even filled up with E85 by mistake, and I can still drive it,” he joked.