The Versatility of E20
|In 1988, Joe Biluck, left, shown here with Michael Frohlich from the National Biodiesel Board, led the effort to fuel Medord, N.J., school buses with B20.
While E10 fuel can be used in any car, the new midlevel blends of gasoline and ethanol (see Customize Your Blends) are currently approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for use in flex-fuel vehicles only. However, a recent study concludes that at least one of the new blends is suitable for conventional engines.
The year-long study, conducted by the state of Minnesota and the Renewable Fuels Association, included input from fuel refiners, automakers and small-engine manufacturers.
Researchers compared E20 with both E10 and gasoline-only fuel, focusing on three areas: materials compatibility, drivability and emissions. They concluded that "the effects of 20% ethanol blended fuels do not present problems for current automotive or fuel dispensing equipment.”
This is good news for Minnesota, which has passed legislation mandating that the state's total consumption of fuel include at least 20% ethanol. Of wider significance, the study points the way toward possible federal
approval of E20 as a motor fuel.
For a summary of the study, go to www.mda.state.mn.us; click on "Renewable Energy” under site directory and then "Ethanol.”
Medford, a town of around 25,000 people in central New Jersey, recently celebrated 10 years of using B20, a 20% blend of biodiesel, in its school buses.
It was in 1998 that Joe Biluck, the forward-thinking director of operations and technology for the Medford Township Board of Education, applied for a Department of Energy grant for alternative fuel. Soon, he was filling the district's school buses with a new fuel: biodiesel.
In the 10 years since, the buses have consumed 615,000 gal. of B20, effectively displacing more than 120,000 gal. of petroleum diesel fuel. That, in turn, eliminated 127,000 lb. of hazardous emissions and 420 lb. of particulate matter. Using biodiesel also resulted in savings of $800,000, primarily through reduced maintenance costs.
About 200 other school districts in the country now use biodiesel, and Biluck has been honored for his pioneering efforts by the National Biodiesel Board and other groups.
Customize Your Blend
Drivers of flex-fuel vehicles now have a wider range of options when it comes to filling their tank. That's because gas stations in several Midwestern states are installing blender pumps, which let the customer choose among several gasoline-ethanol blends.
Until recently, the only choices were E10 (10% ethanol) and E85 (85% ethanol). The new pumps will blend the ordinary gasoline or E10 from one underground tank with E85 or denatured ethanol from another tank to create the mix.
The midlevel blends that this makes available—most commonly E20, E30 and E40—permit drivers to experiment to find the most cost-efficient blend for their vehicle. In an added benefit, research shows that using the ideal blend for a given vehicle dramatically reduces carbon monoxide and other emissions.
Minnesota and South Dakota lead the way in the number of blender pumps, with more than 30 locations in each state. South Dakota has the nation's first incentive program to encourage stations to install the new pumps. There are blender pumps as well in Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Sales of the midlevel blends have been good, and additional states are looking at this option.
- January 2009