South Dakota adds ethanol storage for state fleet

By Erin Voegele | August 10, 2009
Report posted Sept. 10, 2009, at 6:25 p.m. CST

South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds recently announced that ethanol fuel tanks will be installed at three state Department of Transportation regional yards in an effort to increase the use of renewable fuel by the state fleet.

Although nearly 40 percent of South Dakota's 3,395 government vehicles are flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs), state employees have not had access to high ethanol blends, such as E85, at state fueling facilities. Instead, they had the option of purchasing E85 at commercial stations. During the 2009 fiscal year that ended June 30, state employees purchased only 32,640 gallons of E85.

The addition of these three new ethanol fuel tanks at state DOT regional yards is expected to drastically increase E85 usage in state vehicles. "It makes it more convenient for state employees to get higher ethanol blends, and it should increase our use of those higher ethanol blends to an estimated 250,000 gallons per year," Rounds said. "It also will benefit South Dakota's ethanol producers and the farmers who grow the corn that's used to make ethanol."

The ethanol fuel tanks are being added at the state's three most heavily used DOT regional yards, which are located in Rapid City, Pierre and Sioux Falls. According to South Dakota Bureau of Administration Sustainability Coordinator Mike Mueller, an ethanol fuel tank has already been added at the Rapid City location, where an existing 12,000 gallon diesel tank has been converted to ethanol storage. In November, a 5,000 gallon diesel tank will be converted to ethanol storage at the Pierre location, and a new 5,000 gallon ethanol storage tank will be installed in Sioux Falls.

In addition to dispensing E85, the ethanol fuel tanks will dispense midlevel ethanol blends in the future. In an effort to ensure an efficient fleet, South Dakota's Fleet and Travel Office will be conducting a study that will monitor use of the ethanol blended fuel and performance of the fleet vehicles. According to Mueller, this study will likely evaluate the performance of the vehicles using both E85 and E30.

Mueller said for the first six months of operation, the three new fuel tanks will distribute E85. For the second six months of operation, the tanks will distribute midlevel ethanol blends, likely starting with an E30 blend. During the one-year study, the Fleet and Travel Office will use a small control group of vehicles to study the efficiency of each ethanol blended fuel. At the end of the study, the most efficient blend of ethanol will likely be the fuel routinely distributed by the three ethanol fuel tanks.

While the study is being conducted, Mueller said state employees driving FFVs that are not part of a control group will be strongly encouraged to use the ethanol-blended fuel. State vehicles capable of using high ethanol blends will have yellow fueling keys that match the yellow hoses and special decals that will be part of the new ethanol fueling tanks.

Funding for the three tanks comes from a $280,000 energy grant that is part of the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus package.