3 Things to Know About Higher Octane Fuels

And why c-store operators should know about their potential

higher octane fuel pump

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Having an awareness of the up-and-coming fuels helps convenience store operators prepare their infrastructure for the product mix of the future. Increasingly, higher octane fuels (HOFs) are becoming a part of the discussion.

With that in mind, here are three things c-store operators should know about the potential for HOFs on the forecourt.

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1. Currently there are two primary sources of octane in the U.S. fuel supply: Ethanol and BTEX (a blend of benzene, toluene, ethyl-benzene and xylene). 

BTEX is a petroleum refining product more commonly known as gasoline aromatics. Ethanol is an oxygenating agent that enhances combustion but produces lower emissions. According to research conducted by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), higher octane fuels such as E25 or E40 could deliver fuel-efficiency gains of 5% to 10%, compared to engines that run on E10.

2. HOFs could enable automakers to meet higher fuel economy requirements.

The Fuels Institute reports that the internal combustion engine remains the most cost-effective powertrain. This is especially true for larger utility vehicles and trucks, which lead vehicle sales in the United States. But most internal combustion engines aren’t supremely efficient when it comes to thermal efficiency (how well fuel is converted into energy). Octane allows an engine to use more energy in the gasoline, which results in higher compression ratios. Traditional engines run at about a 12:1 compression ratio; higher octane fuels can increase the ratio to 14:1. However, the octane ratings of traditional gasoline impede automakers’ ability to boost compression. According to the Fuels Institute, OEMs are looking for fuels with a Research Octane Number of 98-100 to achieve this.

3. There are challenges to overcome before higher octane ethanol blends such as E25 can be introduced to the mainstream fuel supply.

Automakers and the retail distribution network are caught in a chicken-and-egg dilemma. Most legacy vehicles would not be approved to run on E25. For automakers to develop vehicles optimized for E25, the fuel needs to be readily available nationwide. But for the retail distribution network to widely supply E25, there needs to be a critical mass of vehicles to support the demand for the fuel. Further, the existing liquid gasoline-based infrastructure would need to be upgraded to support E25 blends, and the cost to do so would have to be subsidized greatly by the backers of ethanol.

Learn more about octane at www.sourcena.com/sourceline/2017-beyond-higher-octane-formula-success/. Learn more about the potential introduction of E25 in the Fuels Institute’s case study, “New Technology Adoption Curves” at www.fuelsinstitute.org.