OPINION: RFA reminds of tools to help retailers sell E15

By Robert White, vice president of industry relations at the Renewable Fuels Association | June 05, 2019

After years of waiting for approval of year-round E15 sales, the Trump Administration has given its final approval for the sale of E15 in conventional markets under the waiver conditions set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This means that retailers in both RFG and conventional fuel markets can now legally offer E15 365 days a year and give consumers a higher-octane option at a lower price point.

The Renewable Fuels Association has been working on E15-related issues for more than a decade and has been involved with every significant development. This includes working with EPA on initial approval, various agencies and academics on studies and testing, outside contractors for fuel surveys and sampling, equipment manufacturers on new dispenser configurations, ASTM on fuel specifications and more. Now that this approval has been granted, it is time to get back to the basics on E15 and educate those interested in learning how to offer the product.

But first, we should revisit what engines were approved for E15.  EPA approved E15 for 2001 and newer light-duty vehicles and all Flex Fuel Vehicles (FFVs). Today, that is more than 90% of all vehicles on the road, and that percentage grows each year. That said, E15 was NOT approved for older vehicles, off-road engines, motorcycles or boats.

For some, the regulatory hurdles to offer E15 may seem daunting, but all are manageable. RFA has countless resources to assist everyone in the supply chain. First, RFA has its E15 Retailer Handbook that has assisted hundreds of retailers with the regulatory process. It addresses the need to adopt RFA’s model Misfueling Mitigation Plan (MMP), explains that E15 is defined as gasoline, and all further requirements. One of those requirements for those blending E15 is to participate in the required fuel survey. RFGSA is EPA’s contractor of choice for this fuel survey, and one can easily register by visiting their website. More information on the regulatory requirements can also be found on EPA’s E15 website. You can always refer to RFA’s How to Legally Offer E15 document for quick reference.

There have been some concerns about equipment, and if it is compatible with E15. The answer is simple. It depends. Each station is different, and all should be carefully examined. There are numerous resources for determining compatibility though, and no reason to ignore the lessons learned from those that already offer E15. Your local equipment supplier should be able to assist, and the RFA can too. In fact, RFA staff has conducted more than 2,000 preliminary station assessments in the past 18 months.

The Petroleum Equipment Institute (PEI) issued a report to USDA a few years back on the Cost to Offer E15. It explored numerous scenarios for offering E15 and predicted costs associated with each.

The Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) issued an Equipment Compatibility Report on retail fueling equipment compatible with E15. From that information, they issued a chart that shows tank compatibility and another for piping compatibility.

RFA also remains engaged with educating consumers on the benefits of ethanol, and specifically, higher blends of it. We offer a website that tracks where the stations are located, but also allows registered users to submit prices. Need further incentive? RFA’s Ethanol Days of Summer Contest is running through Labor Day, and a random user will win $50 in free fuel daily!

In the end, it is very exciting that E15 has been approved. Retailers now have another product at their disposal to help differentiate themselves, add more margin, while lowering the cost to consumers. We are confident that E15 will grow this year and the years that follow. Let us help you be on the cutting edge. Visit www.EthanolRFA.org for more information or contact the RFA directly.