ASTM creates first standard for midlevel ethanol blends

By Kris Bevill | June 01, 2012

A new midlevel ethanol blend standard recently completed by scientific standards development body ASTM International could serve as the missing link necessary for blender pumps to become widely used in all U.S. states.

The standard, titled “Blending Mid-Level Ethanol Fuel Blends for Flexible-Fuel Vehicles with Automotive Spark-Ignition Engines,” provides technical guidance for retailers and blenders who wish to offer fuel blends containing ethanol volumes between 15 and 51 percent. Prior to this standard’s completion, those blends were not covered under any other ASTM guidance. Some states, primarily those located in the Midwest, had formed their own guidelines and regulations to allow blender pumps to dispense midlevel ethanol blends, but states that had not taken those measures were hesitant to allow blender pumps into the market without appropriate ASTM guidance. Kristy Moore, vice president of technical services at the Renewable Fuels Association and member of ASTM’s gasoline and oxygenate committee, said the new standard should ease those states’ concerns. “All of the state regulators who initially had apprehension about blender pumps weighed in on this document and said, ‘This is exactly what we need to help usher blender pumps into our state,’” she said.

Moore served as chairwoman of the ASTM task force formed in late 2008 to develop the midlevel ethanol blend standard for flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs). The task force included representatives from the ethanol, oil and auto industries and state regulators, all of whom agreed that the final standard meets their criteria. The standard offers specific technical details for retailers regarding the installation of blender pumps and guidance related to consistently dispensing quality product. States with previously existing blender pump regulations may continue with the policies already in place or choose to adopt the ASTM standard, Moore said. Other states can simply adopt the ASTM standard as their technical policy.

The midlevel ethanol blend standard is key to the ethanol industry’s goal of expanding blender pump availability. “We want blender pumps legal in every state,” Moore said. The RFA and the American Coalition for Ethanol jointly lead the BYO (Blend Your Own) Ethanol Campaign, which is geared toward educating retailers on the benefits of blender pumps and providing assistance to those considering installing the pumps. The group’s goal is to install thousands of blender pumps throughout the U.S. Currently, there are fewer than 500 blender pump locations in the country.