E10 availability gains traction in Southeast

By Bryan Sims | May 09, 2008
Several of the country's top oil refiners and ethanol distributors have increased the availability of E10 in the Southeast with the help of expanding E10 terminals and the development of a dedicated ethanol pipeline.

Kinder Morgan Inc., one of the largest pipeline transporters and terminal operators in North America, will soon make E10 more accessible for Floridians. It's Southeastern company Kinder Morgan Central Florida Pipeline Co. began physical preparations to send a batch of denatured ethanol through its gasoline-only pipeline in early April, replacing gaskets, pumps, seals and other elastomer-intensive parts with compatible parts for ethanol transport. The company expects to be sending routine commercial shipments of batched ethanol through the 104-mile line that runs between the Port of Tampa and the Orlando Airport later this year.

The pipeline would be a boon for Florida fuel retailers looking to replace regular gasoline with E10 without having to switch on an intermittent basis, according to Jim Smith, president of the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores Association. "Once we roll this out, I don't want to have to keep changing back and forth between conventional gasoline and ethanol," he said. "Our customer base, the people we serve on a daily basis, doesn't want anything more than an affordable, consistent product that performs, and we need to have that."

According to Smith, Florida fuel marketers and retailers are poised to replace gasoline with E10 since the Florida Department of Agriculture acquiesced to the state's rule changes regarding blend specifications and performance standards of E10 blends in late March. The specification in question was the T-50 standard, which is the minimum distillation point of the fuel. Initially set at 158, the Florida Department of Agriculture finally lowered it to 150, which mirrored similar standards adopted by surrounding states, Smith said. "We've all worked tirelessly to get the department of agriculture to adopt performance standards similar to what has been adopted in other Southeastern states so that oil companies would not be required to produce a Florida-specific boutique fuel," he said.

Meanwhile, Magellan Midstream Partners LP and Buckeye Partners proposed a joint venture to build a dedicated denatured ethanol pipeline from source markets in the Midwest to distribution terminals in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Linden, N.J. For more information on this project, visit www.ethanolproducer.com.

Additionally, Marathon Oil Co. is offering E10 at 16 of its Midwest terminals. The move, which was scheduled to be effective May 1, is a response to the new renewable fuels standard enacted in December in the Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007, which increased demand for ethanol-blended gasoline.

In mid-March, ExxonMobil Corp. declared its intent to sell gasoline blended with E10 in markets where it currently sells conventional unleaded. At press time, the company said the conversion would take effect May 1. The company cited federal legislation as a reason for the change.