On October 28, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced 21 states would be receiving funding through the agency’s competitive grant program, the Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership (BIP). BIP is providing $100 million in grant funding with a 1:1 match from states and private partners to install blender pumps at gas stations. Blender pumps draw fuels from two separate tanks and mix the fuels on-site. They are capable of dispensing a variety of biofuel blends greater than 10 percent (E10), such as E15 and E85. In total, USDA estimates that $210 million will be invested as a result of the program, increasing the number of blender pumps by 5,000 at over 1,400 gas stations.
The 21 states receiving BIP grants are Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin. According to Secretary Vilsack, BIP “is one more example of how federal funds can be leveraged by state and private partners to deliver better and farther reaching outcomes for taxpayers. The volume and diverse geographic locations of partners willing to support this infrastructure demonstrate the demand across the country for lower cost, cleaner, American-made fuels.”
Despite the promise of engine and fuel co-optimization, getting the retail infrastructure in place has been challenging. In a recent EESI briefing, researchers from Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) discussed a coordinated study they have been conducting to address the opportunities and challenges of deploying high octane fuels with mid-level ethanol blends to the passenger vehicle fleet.
According to an analyses of the retail fuel environment conducted by NREL, mid-level ethanol blends do require some changes to the current gasoline infrastructure, and there are several challenges, from the retail fuel station perspective. Highlighting the challenge is the relatively low number of stations that offer mid or higher level blends. In late 2014, there were approximately 2,400 E85 retail gasoline stations in 37 states; 342 of these stations could mix mid-level ethanol blends on-site. In general, infrastructure upgrades for E85 fueling represent a much more significant cost to individual retail gas station owners than mid-level blends containing up to 25 percent ethanol.
According to Senator Vilsack, the BIP money will be put to good use, and “consumers will begin to see more of these pumps in a matter of months.”
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