Busting E15 Myths: What to Know About Compatibility, Consumer Demand and More

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Consumers and retailers alike love E15—and the fuel’s exponential rate of growth is proof of it. Compared to five hundred sites in 2017 (or 50 sites in 2014), there are now more than 2,100 sites selling E15, many of which are among the highest-volume retail sites in the U.S., according to Growth Energy.

As E15 becomes more available to the growing number of consumers demanding it, any misconceptions about the fuel are quickly being put to rest. Mike O’Brien, vice president of market development for Growth Energy, is helping retailers discern fact from fiction.

For existing retail sites looking to sell ethanol blends, compatibility is rarely an issue

Perhaps the biggest myths surrounding E15 are those involving compatibility. The vast majority of retailers are able to start carrying E15 with minimal changes to their site. Many, O’Brien says, already have more compatible equipment than they realize.

Understanding the requirements for selling E15 set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is key: Retailers can meet the EPA’s requirements by ensuring all equipment that stores and dispenses the fuel carries an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certification for E15. What some don’t realize, however, is that the EPA will also recognize a manufacturer’s warranty as meeting this requirement.

“Many of the parts that go into storing and dispensing E15 have written letters giving warranties for E15,” O’Brien says. “When people say certain equipment isn’t compatible, nine times out of 10 they’re ignoring the manufacturer’s warranty or leaving it out of the conversation altogether. So there’s confusion around what qualifies as compatible equipment.”

While each site’s preexisting compatibility looks different, O’Brien provides some rules of thumb. “In general, underground storage systems installed after 1990 are compatible and carry a manufacturer’s warranty,” he says. To start, he recommends considering the age of the site and the type of material used to make the storage tank.

“Odds are they’ll be fine from there,” he says. “If parts need to be replaced—and that’s the minority of situations—it’s rarely intrusive. Minor parts, no tearing up concrete.”

Among consumers, E15 is in high demand

A cleaner-burning, economical biofuel has a broad appeal. E15’s market is a true cross-section of the country, with consumers in metropolitan and rural areas alike purchasing E15 from more than a dozen of the nation’s largest retail chains. For retailers questioning consumer demand for the fuel, O’Brien points to the numbers.

“Sales for E15 have been increasing month over month even though gasoline demand has been decreasing,” he says. “Consumers like that it’s cleaner-burning. Once they try E15, they put it in their cars, they find the performance is good, they keep coming back. That’s how we got to 14 billion miles driven on E15.”

For retailers with any remaining concerns, O’Brien encourages them to reach out to Growth Energy with questions about their specific sites: “We can predict with a high degree of accuracy what sales they’re going to see and give insights into demand.”

Millions of miles. Millions of transactions.

All evidence points to the fact that E15 is a win for retailers to dispense and for consumers to use—including the fact that 14 billion miles have been driven on E15 without any performance issues.

“We’ve had millions and millions of consumer transactions without a single E15 complaint,” O’Brien says. “We’ve been tracking sales and installations for the better part of six or seven years, and statistically, we have the data that says any car problems just do not exist. If so, it would have shown up well before now.”

O’Brien underscores a crucial takeaway for retailers considering E15: Ask questions.

“They can contact us, and we’ll be happy to walk them through what their compatibility and infrastructure looks like,” he says. “There was a prospect who sent me a list of every single dispenser they had installed across their entire chain, and I went through that spreadsheet and told them exactly what their compatibility was. And they did the same thing with their tanks. So, we’re used to going through and giving [retailers] a first analysis. Just ask us.”

As E15 continues to grow in popularity and availability, it becomes more and more lucrative for sellers to offer it. To learn more about how Growth Energy can help retailers start selling E15, visit growthenergy.org/retailer.

This post is sponsored by Growth Energy