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New Study Concludes Federal Mandate Required for Switch to a Single High-Octane Fuel Nationwide


The Fuels Institute released two reports this week about the feasibility of a nationwide transition to a high-octane fuel to improve mileage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Founded by NACS in 2013, the Fuels Institute is a nonprofit tax-exempt organization which is dedicated to evaluating issues affecting the vehicles and fuels market. The report is based on a hypothetical 98 octane rating for E10, E20 and E30 gasoline blends which noted that a 98 octane E10 would be the most viable of the three blends due to its similarity with the 93 AKI E10 currently available. The similarities between the two blends would provide a cheaper and more rapid transition to a single high-octane fuel than either the E20 or E30 blends because it would encounter less consumer resistance and eliminate any compatibility concerns with existing vehicles and UST systems.

Most of the transition costs would fall on refiners rather than retail marketers because new refining processes would be required to make the switch rather than new infrastructure upgrades downstream. However, the reports note that 98 E10 would be more expensive on a per gallon basis than either the E20 or E30 alternatives.

Finally, the Fuel Institute concluded that the complexities involved in the transition to a single high-octane gasoline would require a federal mandate, similar to the one used in the transition from leaded to unleaded gasoline. Such a mandate would require Congressional action, according to the Fuels Institute, since EPA lacks the authority to implement the transition nationwide. Even with a federal mandate in place, the transition to a single high-octane fuel would likely take decades to achieve given the need for both Congressional and EPA action to make it happen.

Last year, the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers argued that a fuel-neutral, 95-RON octane performance standard could address the needs of all stakeholders: the auto industry, marketers, biofuel producers, refiners, and, most importantly, consumers. 95 RON is similar to today’s premium fuel that would lower emissions and preserve the liquid fuels distribution network. Given ethanol’s octane boost, E10 would likely be used to meet the 95 RON standard. A move to a 98 RON would more than likely require E10 plus blends which would impact underground storage tank compatibility systems.

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