Confusion over Status of E85 Pumps

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Confusion over Status of E85 Pumps

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- In the face of confusion over Underwriters Laboratories' (UL) recent decision to rescind its earlier approval of some E85 pump components, the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) yesterday sought to help clarify what the ruling actually means.

Because the decision has been reported by some as a change in UL's approval of "ethanol" pumps, rather than correctly identifying it as a ruling that only affects E85, ACE has received many inquiries from petroleum marketers who are concerned that they might need to change pumps used to dispense E10 or other ethanol blends.

"It's important to be clear that the UL decision has no impact on pumps that dispense ethanol blends up to 10 percent," said Ron Lamberty, ACE vice president of market development.

All vehicles made and marketed in the U.S. can use fuel with up to 10 percent ethanol. Overall, ethanol is blended into 46 percent of the nation's gasoline, most as E10. Flexible fuel vehicles can operate on gasoline or any blend of ethanol up to E85 -- 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. E85 is currently available at about 1,000 of the nation's 170,000 gas stations.

In a recent interview with CSNews, Lamberty also pointed out that the E85 pump certification change does not mean that all E85 pumps will be shut down. "Underwriters Laboratories, on its own, has no legal authority," he told CSNews. A UL listing for fuel pumps is only required in states or municipalities which have written such a requirement into their laws -- so the group's decision will affect E85 pumps in some, but not all, locations. In many cities and states this issue has already been addressed, and E85 fuel will continue to be available while UL studies the issue further.

UL earlier this month said that its research indicates that the presence of high concentrations of ethanol or other alcohols within blended fuels makes these fuels significantly more corrosive, which may degrade the dispenser's ability to contain the fuel. "While UL has no evidence of field issues related to this application, we are suspending authorization to use the UL Mark on components used in dispensing devices that will dispense any alcohol blended fuels containing over 15 percent alcohol until updated certification requirements are established and the effected components have been found to comply with them," said the independent testing firm.

"We also want to make it very clear that the UL decision did not come in response to any service problems or incidents," Lamberty added. "The overwhelming majority of E85 pumps in use today are gas pumps converted for the alternative fuel, and in the decade or more since E85 has been sold, there have been no safety or maintenance issues with these pumps."

Along with the U.S. Department of Energy, UL is co-sponsoring an E85 Compatibility Technical Forum on November 1-2, 2006 to obtain additional advice to aid in the development of specifications for E85 pumps.

The American Coalition for Ethanol is a grassroots trade association for the U.S. ethanol industry with more than 1,400 members nationwide. For more information, visit