Archive for Thursday, January 29, 2009

Change eases sales of ethanol, biodiesel

January 29, 2009


A few months ago, Wednesday’s announcement by the Kansas Department of Agriculture would have been big news to motorists across the state.

The state announced it is making significant changes to its regulations that will make it easier for Kansas gasoline stations to sell multiple types of ethanol and biodiesel fuels.

Of course, several months ago, gasoline was near $4 a gallon, and motorists were vowing to never again find themselves so bent over a foreign oil barrel.

Today, with gasoline under $2 a gallon, memories have grown shorter.

“Sometimes people don’t remember where we were and what happened to us,” said Scott Zaremba, an owner of the Zarco 66 Earth Friendly Fuels station at Ninth and Iowa streets. “That is one of my challenges — reminding people where we were and what could happen to us again.”

But Zaremba thinks Wednesday’s new regulations may indeed end up being important in the long run. Basically, the new rules should make it much easier for gasoline stations to sell E-85 ethanol — fuel that is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent traditional petroleum-based gasoline. The E-85 ethanol can only be used by vehicles that are equipped with special “flex-fuel” engines, but one of the challenges in getting more of those vehicles on the road has been the limited number of places that motorists can buy the fuel.

In February, Zaremba opened the first station in the state that specialized in selling ethanol and biodiesel-based fuels. The operation works because the station is able to “blend” its own fuels on site. In other words, the site contains tanks of traditional gasoline and tanks of pure ethanol. The station operates special pumps that mechanically mix the two products to produce the proper ratio of ethanol to gasoline.

The state’s department of agriculture — which regulates all gas pumps in the state — allowed Zaremba to install the special pumps as a part of a pilot project. Since then, five other stations — in Blue Rapids, Colwich, Garden City, Topeka and Dodge City — joined the pilot project.

On Wednesday, the agriculture department said it would begin allowing stations across the state to begin using the pumps, after it was determined the devices consistently produced the proper mixture of fuel.

The pumps will allow stations to sell more than just the E-85 ethanol. The pumps can be set to dispense E-10, E-20, E-30 and E-50 blends as well. That could end up being important because Zaremba said efforts are under way to convince the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a ruling that conventional engines can safely operate on fuel that contains up to 30 percent ethanol.

“That’s what studies are showing,” Zaremba said.

But currently, putting anything more than E-10 fuel in a standard engine typically will void the vehicle’s warranty.

Convincing consumers that the ethanol fuels are the best value may be the real challenge, said some fuel industry executives. As gasoline prices have declined, ethanol — which doesn’t produce as much energy per gallon as gasoline — has become less competitive on price.

“I can tell you that the consumer is still looking for the best deal available to them,” said Curt Wright, with Wellsville-based Taylor Oil, which ships fuel to service stations. “I’m not sure many of them are stopping to take into account where the product comes from.”


compmd 9 years, 4 months ago

A high compression gasoline engine sold on the world market should be able to handle 30% ethanol content in the fuel without a problem. Besides, with the law in Kansas no longer requiring gasoline resellers to state how much ethanol they actually put in what they sell as "gasoline," Kansans are very likely putting more than 10% ethanol in their cars anyway. In a car not optimized for higher-ethanol fuel, at first you'll just lose performance (mileage will suffer), but at higher blends, the timing will be off.

labmonkey 9 years, 4 months ago

1) We should know what we are putting in our vehicles. The law should require that stations should let us know if there is ethanol in our fuel or not.2) Ethanol is not the answer....and not really even a good stop-gap solution. According to some reports, food stores around the world are short and we are one crop failure away from a major, world-wide famine...yet we grow corn for fuel. We are draining our water tables to grow corn in many areas Kansas where we should only be growing wheat because corn prices rose (before prices of fuel and corn crashed)....yet we grow corn for fuel. We are using up food and water to make fuel, yet people still drive SUV's (and people do have short memories....Prii's are not selling as well now and Chrysler dealers say that the Durango is actually the tighest model in their supply chain right now).Please dont come on here and tell me they only use part of the Kernel for ethanol, because most of these cheap ethanol plants that have popped up use the whole thing. What really scares me is that farmers will start growing fields of weeds instead of food when they get ethanol from switchgrass perfected.

Hoots 9 years, 4 months ago

At least switchgrass takes very little water but has much to be desired in flavor.

Bruce Bertsch 9 years, 4 months ago

To you who will not use ethanol, the Saudi Governement says "Thank you."

Stu Clark 9 years, 4 months ago

One problem not yet mentioned here is that ethanol and water are mutually soluble. Any ethanol exposed to the ambient air is likely to contain water. This can lead to corrosion problems that will shorten the life of your gasoline engine.

Robert White 9 years, 4 months ago

The state law in Kansas requires any blend of ethanol above 10% to be labeled. This blend is compatible with every unleaded engine in Kansas today, and has been for years. No one should be concerned with having more than is allowed by warranty at their stations, unless boldly noted on the dispenser.Alan - do some research next time. The ethanol subsidy, which is also known as the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) is paid to the blenders of ethanol and gas, which is the petroleum industry. Let's not forget that industry has been subsidized for over a century now. As far as the lobby comments, good luck finding an ADM ethanol plant in Atchison or Hutch - they do not exist. For fuel economy, E10 has 3% less energy, so if you have a vehicle that gets 30MPG, worse case scenario, you should see a 0.9MPG loss. That is less than if you had a low tire. Not sure where you travel from to get to KS, but every state on every side of Kansas also uses E10... good luck avoiding it.

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