O’Brien: Retailers, Prime the Pump set the stage for E15 adoption

By Matt Thompson | August 08, 2019

For retailers who are still looking to add E15 to their product mix, Growth Energy’s vice president of market development, Mike O’Brien believes there’s no better place to learn about and ask questions than the Prime the Pump program.

Retailers who have already made the commitment to offer E15 have benefitted from the expertise available from Prime the Pump’s partners, O’Brien said. Of the 1,800 retail sites currently offering E15, O’Brien said Prime the Pump has been involved with all most all of them. “What that gives you is a depth of expertise that the retailers need and want, and they can’t find elsewhere,” he said. “We have a really great experience base with what it’s going to cost, both if you go with E85 and blender pumps, or if you use pre-blended E15 in your existing sites. We really have probably the strongest experience base on not only how to configure things, but what it’s likely to cost them.”

And with year-round sales of E15 now allowed O’Brien said his Prime the Pump’s efforts toward driving more market availability haven’t slowed. “You’ve still got to have E15 at the retail sites,” he said. “So definitely, we will keep pounding away on the retailers.”

But, he said, driving consumer demand will also continue to be a focus. “If you look at all of the efforts around the Unleaded88 branding, what the dispensers look like, that’s exactly what that was all about was trying to zero in on the consumer and why they buy it, and where they buy it,” O’Brien said. “We definitely are paying attention and encourage best practices.”

O’Brien said the retailers who work with the Prime the Pump program, helped to get EPA’s RVP rule finalized. “The retailers we worked with, I kind of alluded to the market presence as well as the legislative pressure, but they also brought a lot of pressure to the EPA,” he said, and added that the commercial concerns retailers brought to EPA were an important part of EPA’s decision. And EPA continues to use the data retailers provided. “If you look at the data and the numbers and the information that the EPA’s putting forth now on E15, they’re leaning heavily on the fact that these retailers are selling the product, so they’re quoting a lot of the data that has been in the marketplace because of these retailers,” O’Brien said.

Retailers have also changed the landscape at terminals, O’Brien said. As more retailers offer E15, more suppliers are adding the pre-blended fuel to their mix, he said. “We’ve seen the terminals grow from five sites to more than 175 sites offering preblended E15 and I think we’re going to see more than 175 here before too long,” he said.

And O’Brien expects E15 growth this year, thanks to the efforts of Prime the Pump and the retailers who are already offering the fuel. “I don’t think we’ll see a huge boom all of a sudden, but we definitely will start seeing some new players pop into the marketplace this fall because of RVP,” he said, “but also because of all that expertise and all that extra work that was done, and because we can really sit down with them … and really do thorough job of getting them ready to launch E15,” he said.