What’s In a Number?

Some people hate math, while others have a talent for it that comes from a love of numbers. In either case, as the ethanol industry seeks to increase its demand and market share, it is unavoidably a numbers game—one that can get confusing.
By Dave VanderGriend | July 20, 2017

Some people hate math, while others have a talent for it that comes from a love of numbers. In either case, as the ethanol industry seeks to increase its demand and market share, it is unavoidably a numbers game—one that can get confusing.

Plenty of talk circulates around ethanol blends above E10. Clearly, E15 is the next milestone. But as we work to capture ethanol's octane benefits and its ability to replace some of the most harmful components of gasoline, we know the number should be higher. But is there a “right” number or are we just after higher volumes?

Some of our thinking stems from the great work done at the U.S. Department of Energy. Its engine fuel studies conclude the sweet spot for ethanol is between 25 and 40 percent. For example, at the pump, E30 is a 94 octane super premium that can be easily produced by splash blending 20 percent ethanol onto today’s E10. At these levels, current and future vehicles can take full advantage of the available octane and have an impact on reducing toxic emissions.

According to Ford Motor Co. figures, emissions drop as ethanol is added, and they are at their lowest with 30 to 40 percent ethanol blends.

It’s the scientific emission data and engine studies that prompted UAI to embrace E30. But that doesn’t mean we don’t support other blends. In fact, our mission is to improve air quality by improving gasoline. We support all ethanol blends, because any amount of ethanol simply added to gasoline helps protect public health.

But if E30 is the scientific sweet spot, why is E25 mentioned so often? For example, the 2017 BMW Mini Cooper allows E25, which reaches the recommended 91 octane. One reason is the fact that standard gasoline pumps and hoses are UL certified to handle 25 percent volume blends. This existing infrastructure could be used today, providing more access across the nation. These new UL25 pumps are also much less expensive than E85/blending pump dispensers, reducing retailer costs. 
Whatever the number—E20, E25, E30 or E40—the additional ethanol provides significant benefits in performance, cost and emission reductions. And that’s good for all of us. UAI will continue working to break down regulatory barriers so we can access more ethanol, no matter the number.


Author: Dave VanderGriend
President, Urban Air Initiative
CEO, ICM Inc.
316.796.0900
davev@icminc.com