Conference goers call for midlevel ethanol blends

By Bryan Sims | November 03, 2008
For advanced biofuels to enter the marketplace, the conventional ethanol industry must continue its aggressive pursuit of striving past an E10 "blend wall" and establish a market for higher blends. This was an overarching topic presented to attendees of the 2008 Advanced Biofuels Workshop & Trade Show in Minneapolis on Sept. 28-30.

The renewable fuels standard (RFS) in the Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007 requires the United States to consume 36 billion gallons of biofuel by 2022 and caps the required consumption of corn-based ethanol at 15 billion gallons. For 2009, the RFS mandates 10.5 billion gallons of conventional biofuel and 600 million gallons of "advanced biofuel." This new category consists of 500 million gallons of biomass-based diesel and 100 million gallons of undifferentiated advanced biofuel.

Ralph Groschen, senior marketing specialist for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, discussed the importance of expanding E85 and midlevel blend infrastructure nationwide. Blender pumps at gasoline retail stations could help in this regard. "Certainly, E85 has its challenges," he said. "Blender pumps are a possible way of achieving a blend somewhere between E10 and E85 in combination with [flexible-fuel vehicles]. If there becomes a significant legal market for conventional vehicles, midlevel blends will require some sort of (U.S.) EPA waiver."

Brian Jennings, executive vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol, agreed with Groschen in regard to mid- to high-level ethanol blends. "We need the transition of midlevel blends," he said, adding that the United States "cannot simply rely on the quantum leap from E10 to E85 to get the job done."

He added, "I would make the case that if we don't find this pathway and we don't have a market for advanced biofuel, it will chill investment, stymie growth, and slow or delay for years the commercialization of advanced biofuel. This is not the corn-based ethanol industry's problem; this is everyone's problem."