EPA approves Gustav-related fuel waiver

By Ron Kotrba | September 08, 2008
Web exclusive posted Sept. 10, 2008 at 1:55 p.m. CST

As a result of power outages and refinery shutdowns in Louisiana from Hurricane Gustav, U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson waived low-volatility fuel requirements for Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and North Carolina on Sept. 5. The waiver will expire Sept. 15, the end of the summertime high-ozone period.

In a Sept. 5 letter, Administrator Johnson sent to the four governors of the affected states, he wrote: "I am also waiving the requirement … that gasoline must have between 9 percent and 10 percent ethanol by volume in order to qualify for the ‘special provisions for alcohol blends' that increase the [Reid Vapor Pressure] standard by one [pound per square inch]. Under this waiver, gasoline with less than nine percent ethanol by volume will qualify for the ‘special provisions for alcohol blends' requirement."

Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) is the accepted measure of a fuel's volatility. Ethanol is more volatile than gasoline, so provisions exist for E10 to allow RVP of one pound per square inch (psi) greater than that of non-ethanol-blended fuels. Given this, Johnson is allowing fuels with ethanol-volumes less than nine percent to still qualify for the "special provisions for alcohol blends," which means fuels with percentages of ethanol less than nine percent can still be given a one psi allowance in the specified areas within the four named states.

Johnson said the power outages and refinery shutdowns in Louisiana have "resulted in the slowdown of deliveries to the Colonial Pipeline, and has additionally caused the partial shutdown of the Plantation Pipeline." This has led to curtailing delivery of low-volatility fuels to Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and North Carolina. In his letter Johnson said the situation resulting in the waiver being granted is an "extreme and unusual fuel supply circumstance," and noted the waiver applies to the smallest geographic area necessary.

Portions of North Carolina and Louisiana have maximum RVP of seven-point-eight psi during summertime ozone periods, while gasoline-based fuels in areas surrounding Birmingham, Ala., and Atlanta must meet RVP requirements of seven psi max.

For more information, visit www.EPA.gov.