Battle of the Blend

Fueling infrastructure adjustments imminent as industry switches to higher ethanol blends

Abbey Lewis, Editor in Chief, CSProducts

AUSTIN, Texas -- In a presentation at the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA) convention in San Antonio, Texas, late last month, Dresser Wayne director of North American dispenser marketing Scott Negley warned gasoline marketers that legacy, as well as some newly purchased dispensing equipment would not meet certification standards laid out by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) to dispense E13 gasoline.

This news delivered "a real kick in the stomach to an industry that's trying to bump" that percentage of ethanol up, said Negley, who also is the secretary [image-nocss] of the board of directors for the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition (NEVC). What that means, he explained in an exclusive interview with CSP Daily News, is that if a station puts E13 in the ground, it is effectively violating federal law.

"Here's the challenge," he said. "If you take UL at face value and their position, the only thing that you can use to dispense E13 would be specialized equipment that is in the process of being certified for E85. The problem with that is it requires a much different equipment base, much more expensiveand now they require all the elements of the full-handling system to be certified instead of individual components, which is the traditional method."

Local jurisdiction rules currently state that with approval from a local fire marshal, fueling stations may dispense higher blends of gasoline at their sites. The problem with this, Negley said, is that the UL standards are "open ended," meaning that the standards do not specifically reference any particular blend of ethanol. UL broadened its definition when asked and applied it to 10% blends only. Any blend higher than that will not be certified.

"Federal law requires that you use listed equipment when you're dealing with flammable liquid. You're automatically now putting a retailer in a position to say, 'Do I really want to do this?' From a risk management and assessment standpoint, it's a big deal," he said.

Conflicting regulations on blended fuel and the dispensing of that fuel is creating a "big collision." Negley encouraged retailers to do what they can in the mean time, while regulators and industry stakeholders wade through the details. He said that newly manufactured dispensing equipment will more than likely abide by future standards to the extent that they have been designed to be compatible with higher blends of ethanol.

"We are in a brand new world in terms of fuel and the different kinds of formulations that we're seeing. That will put added emphasis on the development of equipment that can handle it. If you can manage it, start specifying equipment that will be a little more robust. There's equipment available now that starts to allow you to do that."

Dresser Wayne, based in Austin, Texas, manufactures self-service consoles and fuel-blending dispensers to service stations, in-pump card readers and cash acceptors, in-pump audio frequency identification payment systems and dispenser-mounted touchscreen payment/communication systems.

See related feature in this issue of CSP Daily News.

Abbey Lewis of CSP By Abbey Lewis, Editor in Chief, CSProducts
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