UK adopts E10 as standard gasoline blend

By Erin Voegele | February 26, 2021

The U.K. Department for Transport on Feb. 25 announced that the country will adopt E10 as its standard gasoline blend by September. The move will allow idle ethanol production capacity in the U.K. to be brought back online.

The U.K. previously limited the volume of ethanol allowed in gasoline blends to 5 percent. The Department for Transport opened a public consultation in March 2020 on a proposal to allow E10 to be sold within the country. While E10 will become the new standard blend of gasoline, E5 blends will continue to be available to fuel older vehicles, such as classic cars.

The move to E10 aims to help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation. According to the U.K. government, the transport sector accounts for the greatest share of the country’s GHG emissions, at 27 percent in 2019. The introduction of E10 could reduce carbon dioxide emissions from transportation by 750,000 metric tons per year in the U.K., which is the equivalent of taking 350,000 cars off the road.

Increased use of ethanol will also boost job opportunities by reopening and boosting production at existing ethanol plants. Vivergo Fuels, which operates a 420 MMly (110 MMgy) ethanol plant in Hull, England, has announced it will reopen following the government’s E10 announcement. The facility was established in 2012, but closed in 2018 due to low ethanol prices, high feedstock prices and lack of demand.  

“It was an extremely difficult decision we had to take to close in September 2018, but we have continued to maintain this world-class plant in the anticipation that it could re-start if the conditions were right to do so,” said Mark Carr, group chief executive of AB Sugar, which owns Vivergo Fuels. “With the Government’s announcement to introduce E10 to U.K. vehicles and improved market conditions, we are re-opening the plant and will start manufacturing bioethanol in early 2022.

 “We will once again be investing in creating a highly skilled workforce and will be looking to recruit around 85 people for specialist roles over the coming weeks, as well as seeking opportunities with past partners, growers and customers whose support since 2007 has been invaluable.

 “This is good news for a sustainable British biofuels industry, the economy within the Humber region, and the environment and consumers,” Carr continued. “I look forward to our continued investment and ambition for the U.K. bioethanol industry.”

The U.K. Renewable Energy Association said the move to E10 is a major step towards decarbonizing existing cars in the U.K. “At the REA we warmly welcome this announcement, having been working on behalf of the industry to deliver this for almost a decade now,” said Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the REA.

“With the recent announcement of the 2030 phase out date for sales of new internal combustion engine cars and light vans, government direction in this area is clear, but in the meantime there will be millions of traditional cars sold,” she continued. We must act to reduce the emissions from these and we need those fuels to be as sustainable and low carbon as possible. Renewable transport fuels in the U.K. are sustainable, affordable, and immediately available, are essential to our low-carbon future

“Following this announcement, the industry will be looking forward to the forthcoming RTFO consultation which is critical and should be released as soon as possible, and working to maximize the contribution of sustainable fuels.”

Growth Energy, the U.S. Grains Council and the Renewable Fuels Association have also issued a joint statement welcoming the U.K.’s move to E10. “The United Kingdom’s introduction of an E10 ethanol blend comes amid a global push to decarbonize the transportation sector and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” the groups said. “This is a welcome announcement that will benefit the health of U.K. residents, create more jobs, and accelerate the country’s goal of a zero-emissions future. It is also another example of how biofuels like ethanol are being used to help countries achieve their climate targets. We look forward to the environmental benefits that E10 will bring not only to the U.K., but to decarbonization efforts across the world.”