Mid-level ethanol blends offer significant benefits to the US

By Jodi Delapaz

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2016 - High octane fuels (HOF), specifically mid-level ethanol blends (E25-E40), could offer significant benefits for the U.S., according to a new study by the Energy Department's Oak Ridge, Argonne National laboratory (ANL) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

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Among the benefits cited in the study (Summary of High-Octane, Mid-Level Ethanol Blends): improved vehicle efficiency, increased acceleration and significant reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

An improved efficiency of 5 percent to 10 percent in vehicles designed and dedicated to use the increased octane could offset the lower energy density of the increased ethanol content, the report says, resulting in volumetric fuel economy parity of E25-E40 blends with E10.

The report also concludes that feedstock availability would not limit the growth of HOF. Further, the report says, it would be a significant benefit if a new fuel utilized the existing infrastructure.

No technical obstacles or challenges involving materials are likely to prohibit HOF, the report says, however, it says new aboveground equipment compatible with HOF will need to be installed. There is sufficient capacity to allow the introduction of HOF at the nation's terminals, the report says.

The study also concludes that blendstock costs are not a significant barrier to HOF introduction and notes that the low cost of natural gasoline makes it attractive to consider for a blending component.

“This report reinforces what consumers know today: More ethanol means more consumer savings at the pump and less pollutants in the air we breathe,” says Chris Bliley, director of regulatory affairs for the ethanol industry group Growth Energy. “I am pleased that this report recognizes and confirms what we've said for a number of years - automakers can take advantage of ethanol's high octane properties to achieve the administration's ambitious climate goals.”

Bliley noted that the EPA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the California Air Resources Board are currently conducting a mid-term review of fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for vehicles for model years 2022-2025. He said the agencies “should appropriately recognize the ability of high-octane, mid-level ethanol blends to meet the future greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards,” Bliley said.

Despite the potential benefits of HOF, the report notes that there are some barriers and associated costs that must be resolved before the fuels are adopted at large scale, such as fuel retailers' investment in compatible equipment and the number of biorefineries that need to be built.

A number of these barriers were identified through interviews with 16 companies and industry associations representing fleet managers, individual drivers, vehicle manufacturers, vehicle dealers, retail fuel stations, ethanol producers (corn and cellulosic), large oil companies and midstream fuel distributors. To view the report, click here.

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