Minnesota extends E20 mandate to start in 2015

By Kris Bevill | May 08, 2012

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton recently signed into law a bill which includes a section that extends the start of an E20 mandate to 2015. The 2012 Omnibus Agriculture Policy bill calls for all gasoline blends sold in Minnesota to contain at least 20 percent ethanol by volume or the maximum percent of ethanol by volume allowed by the U.S. EPA by Aug. 30, 2015. The original policy, passed in 2005, would have required sale of E20 by 2013.

The extension of the E20 mandate is a testament to the state’s commitment to ethanol, according to Kevin Hennessy, biofuels specialist at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. “Legislators throughout the state support ethanol,” he said. Minnesota’s ethanol facilities produce more than 1 billion gallons of ethanol per year, more than half of which is currently exported out of the state.

The new statute allows for the E20 provision to sunset on Dec. 31, 2014, if the state’s agriculture commissioner certifies that the total volume of gasoline sold in the state already contains at least 20 percent ethanol or if the U.S. EPA has not granted approval for E20 to be used in vehicles. It is unlikely the EPA will approve an E20 waiver by 2015, but it is possible that the state’s fuel retailers could meet the E20 mandate through increased sales of E15 for 2001 and newer vehicles and/or mid-level ethanol blends and E85 for flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs). However, E15 has yet to enter the state’s market for vehicles other than FFVs, and E85 sales currently comprise less than 1 percent of the state’s fuel consumption, according to Hennessy.

In addition to the E20 mandate extension, the bill also calls for the creation of an advisory group to assist the state’s NextGen Energy Board in analyzing potential policy recommendations to include next-generation biofuels in the state’s existing biofuel policies. Commissioner of Agriculture Dave Frederickson serves as chairman of the NextGen Energy Board and will head the formation of the advisory group, which is anticipated to include representatives of the next-generation biofuels industry, the ethanol industry, biofuels engineers and feedstock suppliers.

Butanol is likely to be a main consideration when analyzing the potential for next-generation biofuels to be incorporated into the state’s policies. Gevo Inc. is nearing completion on its first commercial-scale butanol project, located at a former corn ethanol plant in Luverne, Minn. Competing butanol technology developer Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC is in the early stages of developing a butanol production facility in Minnesota. The company signed a letter of intent in December with Highwater Ethanol LLC in Lamberton, Minn., to explore the potential to retrofit that facility for butanol production.