Interest in E15 picks up among gasoline retailers

By Matt Thompson | November 27, 2018

Mike O’Brien, vice president of market development for Growth Energy, says that with seasonal restrictions on E15 sales potentially being lifted in time for next summer’s driving season, interest in selling E15 has increased among gasoline retailers.

“We’ve had quite a few retailers calling us wanting to discuss E15. How to put E15 in place with an eye on the fact that the RVP waiver will likely be going away sometime in the near future,” he said.

Growth Energy is an ethanol trade group, and has created Unleaded88 branding for E15, which has helped retailers market and sell the product. “The intent behind that is to provide a consistent and recognizable fuel brand for all the retailers to use when selling E15 because in that manner, they’re able really to optimize the sales of the new product that’s out there,” O’Brien said.

Retailers who are already using the Unleaded88 branding have seen positive results, O’Brien said. He indicated that E15 sales have increased for those who use the branding. “In fact, when E15 is put in the right scenario we’ve seen it be the dominant fuel at the dispenser. And that’s pretty well known in the retail industry right now, is just how dominant E15 can be from a sales standpoint.,” he said.

Beyond just providing branding, Growth Energy can help retailers with regulations and registration, determining what types of equipment upgrades may be needed, or locate funding sources for undertaking those upgrades. One of those funding sources is the Prime the Pump program.

“There is, at times, Prime the Pump funding available for the larger initiatives that cut across multiple states and there are some basic criteria that the retailer has to meet to become eligible for it, and ultimately the Prime the Pump board decides who they give grants to and under what terms, and things like that,” O’Brien said. There may also be grants available from state governments or corn grower associations, which Growth Energy can help retailers identify.

According to O’Brien, one of the reasons retailers may consider selling E15 is to gain a price advantage. “Typically, E15 will retail for about 3 to 10 cents less per gallon than 87 regular, and that gives the retailer an advantage versus other retailers out in the market place that aren’t making the product available,” O’Brien said.

Remaining competitive is what will help drive more retailers to offer, E15 he said. “I think the initial wave of demand will pick up out of the retailers that we’re seeing both in terms of their summer sales, as well as the number of sites, and with that we’ll start seeing some of those other retailers that have been waiting for RVP relief get into the fray because of the competitive landscape,” he said.