OPINION: A rise in E15 terminal supply

By Mike O’Brien, vice president of market development, Growth Energy | November 04, 2020

As the popularity of E15, known to the consumer as Unleaded 88, grows so do the supply offerings of the engine smart, earth-friendly product. Following a 10% retail expansion of E15 earlier this year, more than 13 fuel terminals offering E15 were added in the Ohio Valley, stretching from Illinois to Virginia.

The announcement comes as just the latest in a wave of improving biofuel supply in response to rising demand for E15 from consumers. In 2017, only five locations offered blending services for E15. Fast forward to today, where there are now more than 200 terminals across the nation offering E15 – a dramatic increase in just three years.

Access to a greater number of terminals blending E15 creates an advantage for the retailer because they receive direct access to E15 and can offer this product as a base grade of gasoline using existing infrastructure. Because the terminal offerings of E15 was limited several years ago, many retailers were forced to get creative and used E85 and blender pumps in order to make E15 and meet the rising consumer demand. Kwik Trip, a large retail chain based out of Lacrosse, Wisconsin, was the first retailer to offer preblended E15.

In 2017, KwikTrip started selling E15 using existing infrastructure, growing the number of sites selling E15 from 0 to 350 sites in a matter of six months. More and more retailers today are adopting this strategy of using preblended E15 in existing infrastructure. In addition, more and more retailers are rebuilding old sites and building new sites with a focus on higher blend ethanol products resulting in a rapid growth to E15. This initial phase of development meant that terminals and traditional suppliers were losing market share by not offering E15 – so they moved quickly to remedy this shortcoming and capitalizing on the savings by rapidly adding terminals. It’s good to see that both retailers and terminal suppliers are now looking for opportunities to stay on the cutting edge of what consumers want at the pump and there is a clear demand to retailers from consumers looking for a more affordable, cleaner-burning, and environmentally friendly fuel alternatives.

With this increased demand, Growth Energy is committed to expand the market until Unleaded 88 becomes standard fuel for American drivers. To do so, our primary strategy has been to work with the unbranded marketers who think outside the box., Fast forward to today, and these innovative retailers are now starting to replace  87/E10 with E15 as their standard fuel. Innovative retailers such as Casey’s, Sheetz, Minnoco, Cumberland Farms, Family Express, Kwik Trip, Kum & Go, Murphy USA, NuVu Fuels, Protec Fuel, Pump & Pantry, QuikTrip, RaceTrac, Royal Farms, Thorntons, and United Dairy Farmers see E15 as a competitive advantage. And with over 17 billion miles driven by consumers on E15, we look forward to bringing more retailers along for the ride.