High Octane Fuel: An Opportunity for Ethanol

Growth Energy's CEO explains the importance of the recent ASTM standard for 100 RON test fuel in helping the ethanol industry achieve its goal of expanding the availability of higher-octane fuels. This article appears in the May print issue.
By Emily Skor | April 25, 2017

In March, ASTM International published an important new high-octane fuel standard: ASTM D8076 – 17, Standard Specification for 100 Research Octane Number Test Fuel for Automotive Spark-Ignition Engines. A major victory for the ethanol industry, this new specification intends to describe and align the fuel properties needed to enable high-compression ratio, turbocharged-boosted engines that will utilize fuels with up to 50 percent ethanol.

Growth Energy, along with staff from several of our member plants and ethanol colleagues, engaged closely with ASTM to see this new specification published. It is very common for new standards and specifications to take up to five years to be fully developed and reach publication status because the ASTM process is rigorous and requires the review and approval of automotive and fuel experts from around the globe. However, Specification D8076-17 went from concept to completion in record time at ASTM due to the tremendous partnership and collaboration among the automotive, agriculture and ethanol industries, and the leadership on the standard by  Robert McCormick from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

One of Growth Energy’s primary goals is to facilitate the expansion of higher ethanol blends in markets across the United States, and this new specification is a great sign of what is achievable in the future. The ethanol industry and the agriculture industry have been linked for years, but working in harmony with automakers is equally important to ensure that ethanol continues to expand. As agricultural technology and ethanol production efficiency advance and yield a greater supply of biofuels, we will need buy in from automakers to produce engines that are optimized for higher blends.

Recently, President Trump committed to re-examining the corporate average fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for model year 2022-’25 automobiles. We have heard the requests from the auto industry engineers: They need a better fuel in the future to enable the next generation of spark-ignition technology and they want octane. Growth Energy and others in the agriculture and ethanol industries have been directly engaged to demonstrate that by using midlevel ethanol blends such as E30 to achieve a higher octane, automakers can maximize efficiency for the standards of today and potentially more stringent standards in the future. In fact, Growth Energy submitted a high-octane, E30 certification fuel in 2012 to U.S. EPA and the state of California for automakers to use to meet the initial set of standards that went into place in 2017. We believe this re-examination by the new administration provides another key opportunity for the industry to clearly demonstrate that ethanol is the best solution. We know that as an industry, we can produce enough ethanol to meet the challenge, and with the expansion of E15 and E85 through Prime the Pump and the USDA Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership program, we are also getting the necessary infrastructure in place to carry these fuels nationwide.

Growth Energy is committed to demonstrating the value of higher ethanol blends to consumers. We know that higher blends deliver improved engine performance by burning cooler and providing additional octane while displacing toxic chemicals in gasoline, reducing harmful emissions and providing savings at the pump. We continue to work every day to convey these benefits to consumers and lawmakers, and are similarly engaging automakers to ensure that they fully understand why higher blends are a smart choice now and into the future.

Author: Emily Skor
CEO, Growth Energy