E-15 gasoline puts millions of car fuel systems at risk - API

29 January 2013 18:56  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--US federal authorisation for a 15% ethanol blend (E-15) in the nation’s gasolines puts millions of automobiles at risk for fuel system failure, the American Petroleum Institute (API) said on Tuesday.

Citing a new technical analysis of the impact of E-15 on autos manufactured in 2001 or later, the API said that the higher biofuel blend created “an elevated incidence of fuel pump failures, fuel system component swelling and impairment of fuel measurement systems in some of the vehicles tested”.

The API, which represents oil and gas producers, refiners and other fuel-chain companies, said that a new study by the Coordinating Research Council (CRC) found that E-15 could cause erratic and misleading fuel gauge readings or cause faulty check-engine warnings.

“It is difficult to precisely calculate how many vehicles could be harmed by E-15,” said Bob Greco, API's downstream operations director. “But, given the kinds of vehicles tested, it is safe to say that millions could be impacted.”

In 2010 and 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authorised use of E-15 fuel blends for autos made in model year 2001 or later, saying its research and that done by the Department of Energy (DOE) showed no ill effects for those newer cars’ engines in using E-15.

But the API and other energy sector groups have opposed the EPA E-15 rule from the outset, and the API is one of many plaintiffs in a lawsuit pending against the agency’s decision.

The API and others contend that DOE research was incomplete and not properly designed and that the EPA’s E-15 approval ruling was premature and irresponsible.

Most US gasolines already contain 10% ethanol, known as E-10 fuel, as required under the federal renewable fuels standard (RFS). The EPA cited the RFS in authorising E-15 fuels.

Greco said that, given the risks posed to most passenger cars on the nation’s highways, both the E-15 ruling and the RFS as a whole should be repealed.

He said that the RFS is no longer needed because US domestic supplies of crude oil have grown dramatically with the advent of shale oil, reducing US dependence on foreign oil suppliers.

Since the stated purpose for the RFS was to reduce reliance on foreign oil sources, he said, that role has been mooted.

However, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) quickly challenged the new API study, charging that the “oil lobby-backed CRC” analysis is “chock full of misinformation about E-15” and contains multiple unfounded claims about the biofuel.

The CRC was created and is funded by the automotive and oil industries.

The RFA also charged that the API-CRC report was biased and politically motivated.

In May 2012, the API issued an earlier CRC study warning that US fuel distribution and retail fuelling systems would be damaged by E-15.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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