E15’s Footprint Expands—What’s Next?

Advancements in pump technology


Brought to you by Growth Energy.

The market share for E15 fuel continues to expand, and some say it’s only a matter of time until critical mass is reached toward even wider scale adoption.

Once the center of much politics and debate, ethanol-blended fuel products continue to pop up at convenience stores across the country. In fact, Growth Energy notes that 12 of the largest independent retail chains in the U.S. are currently selling E15 at their various locations. E15 is the next step up from E10 with 5% more ethanol added, and has been heavily tested and vetted by the EPA. In fact, E15 is the most tested fuel in history.

Why E15 has gained momentum

Lance Klatt, executive director at the Minnesota Service Station and Convenience Store Association (MSSA) and executive director at Minnoco, has had members successfully selling E15 for nearly four years, a pioneer when it comes to selling E15, well before it began to hit the market as much as it has now.

“We have seen many benefits to selling E15,” says Klatt, who says that among his members selling it, E15 fuel sales account for between 36% of over-all fuel sales.

Klatt attributes this growth to a few key drivers. “Number one, it burns cleaner based on studies we have seen, and with a boosted, higher octane of 88. Minnoco dealers have service technicians within their organizations, saying the engines they take apart from the vehicles running on E15 are cleaner.”

Another advantage is the profit potential. “E15 is a little more cost effective—allowing Minnoco retailers to sell E15 about five cents per gallon or more less than 87.  Being E15 boasts a higher octane, our customers like the option of buying another fuel” Klatt says. “Minnoco dealers selling E15, have found E15 to be sold as a new fuel, and being able to offer something different in the marketplace for the consumer.”

Advancements in E15 pump technology

Since E15 used to be less commonly found across the country, most retailers offering it added a secondary pump to be able to maintain their regular unleaded reserves. However, ethanol and biofuel suppliers say that going forward, retailers will be able to simply swap out the regular fuel for E15 using the same equipment.

Still, some retailers might opt to add equipment to offer not only E15, but also other ethanol products, such as E85 Flex Fuel, a higher ethanol-based product, as a way to differentiate from the competition. 

E15 and the community

There are potential socioeconomic benefits as well: Biofuel supporters view E15 as a “homegrown” product supporting agricultural communities in the U.S.

“A majority of our ethanol comes from crop grown here in Minnesota so our retailers are supporting the local economy and jobs,” Klatt says.

To get the word out about E15 and educate consumers about its differences and potential benefits, Klatt’s retailers use brochures and inserts in stores, as well as posting flyers and information on social media websites, such as Facebook. Word of mouth and staff training also remain effective education methods when it comes to any new product offering, not just E15. Klatt will tell you, “the Minnoco retail owners are the best ambassadors of E15”.

Klatt says he wouldn’t be surprised if more retailers start selling E15 at their pumps as a next generation of selling fuel. “We’re giving a little to the ethanol community but still need petroleum,” he says. “We feel that selling E15 is a great opportunity for two industries to co-exist and work together in support of a fuel for the future.”