FINDLAY, Ohio -- As large convenience-store chains such as Cumberland Farms and Casey’s General Stores announce plans to add E15 to their sites, a report suggests that the largest refiner in the United States may soon be joining them.
Sources have told Bloomberg that Marathon Petroleum Corp. is considering whether to sell higher ethanol gasoline blends at its retail locations in Minnesota. This could include E15, the 15% ethanol blend. These same sources told Bloomberg that Marathon Petroleum would do so to enhance its relationship with political leaders in Minnesota, which is the fourth-largest producing state of corn-based ethanol. Minnesota also has the highest number of E15 fueling locations in the United States, according to ethanol industry group Growth Energy.
A spokesperson for Marathon Petroleum, Findlay, Ohio, told Bloomberg that the company did not “have any information to provide on this matter at this time” on plans to add E15. Bloomberg pointed to the “psychological boost” for E15 if Marathon Petroleum began selling the blend, although the rollout would be limited to only one of the 22 states where the company has retail locations.
Marathon Petroleum acquired 285 SuperAmerica c-stores, mostly in Minnesota and Wisconsin, as part of its recent acquisition of San Antonio, Texas-based Andeavor. Through the acquisition, Marathon Petroleum’s retail and marketing business has grown to about 3,900 company-owned and -operated stores and 7,800 Marathon-branded locations. Retail subsidiary Speedway LLC owns and operates about 4,000 c-stores in the United States. Marathon Petroleum plans to rebrand the SuperAmerica sites to Speedway.
Marathon Petroleum’s potential introduction of higher ethanol blends comes at a time when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing rulemaking to provide a Reid vapor pressure (RVP) waiver to E15 that would allow its sale year-round. Currently, retailers in most markets cannot sell E15 to any vehicles other than flex-fuel vehicles from June 1 to Sept. 15, due to seasonal restrictions that target smog. The EPA expects to adopt the final rule providing the RVP waiver by May 2019, although ethanol opponents have promised legal action to stop the move.
Photograph courtesy of Marathon Petroleum Corp.