Shell offers German drivers insurance against E10 damage

29 March 2011 18:27  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS)--Shell has started to offer drivers in Germany free insurance against damage from 10%-bioethanol blended gasoline (E10), the oil and chemicals major said on Tuesday.

The move is in response to continued fears and uncertainty among drivers about potential damage to car engines from E10, Shell said.

Drivers pumping at least 30 litres of Shell’s “Super E10” and driving an E10-compatible car could register for the insurance coverage online, Shell Deutschland said.

Germany last year approved E10 for sale from 1 January 2011, in compliance with EU rules requiring Europe's largest economy to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Refiners introduced E10, replacing regular 95 RON (research octane number) gasoline.

However, drivers, fearing engine damage, largely avoided E10, switching instead to “super gasoline” with 98 RON (research octane number), a fuel that requires greater amounts of octane-boosting ethers, thus leading to increased demand for methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE).

German commentators had mixed views about Shell's move.

One paper, Markische Oderzeitung, a regional daily, said Shell’s insurance scheme may be the “last chance” for E10 in Germany.

If drivers do not accept the Shell insurance, and if the scheme is not imitated by competitors, E10 would be confined to a niche role on the German market, the paper said in a commentary.

Another paper, Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, said under the insurance terms, drivers may find it difficult to prove that damage was caused by E10.

Also, drivers would needed to prove that they pumped about 80% of their gasoline at Shell, the paper added.

German consumer lobby group Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband (vzbw) said Shell’s plan was not helpful.

“Are there really drivers out there who would want to buy a gasoline for which they need an insurance?”, asked vzbw head Gerd Billen.

Billen said what was needed was a legally-binding guarantee from car manufacturers to drivers that a respective car model could run on E10.

Meanwhile, in the US, refiners and other groups oppose a federal mandate for 15% ethanol fuel blends (E15).

The groups argue that E15 fuels could damage vehicle engines and other gasoline-powered equipment or systems, such as off-road and construction equipment, marine motors and maintenance gear.

Check out Doris de Guzman's Green Chemicals blog for views on sustainability issues

By: Stefan Baumgarten
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