ENERGY: Ethanol blender pumps growing in numbers

Blender pumps offering consumers a variety of ethanol-blend fuels are growing in numbers across the Dakotas and Minnesota.

By: Loretta Sorensen, Prairie Business Magazine

We’re very satisfied with the progress of blender pump sales in North Dakota,” Tom Lilja, North Dakota Corn Growers Director, says. “In the past, a few stations may have had a pump dedicated to E85 in the corner. Now, blender pumps are right next to standard gasoline pumps and consumers are using the blended fuels.”

North Dakota just surpassed installation of 200+ pumps at more than 50 locations across the state. The majority of pumps are found in the eastern two-thirds of North Dakota. Blends vary from E10 to E30 to E85.

“There are a few stations that offer an E20 blend,” Lilja says. “Most of the pumps didn’t start going in until the 2010 construction season. The North Dakota legislature initiated the blender pump program during the 2009 session. In 2009, average monthly sales of ethanol blends were at 23,000 gallons. In 2011, sales of ethanol blends averaged 112,000 gallons per month and surpassed a million gallons in the first nine months. Our sales reports don’t currently break ethanol sales out into the different blends so it’s all reported as E85. It all comes down to access. If it’s available, consumers are choosing it.”

Funding for installation of additional blender pumps in North Dakota is available to station owners through spring 2013. The state provides a $5,000 grant toward purchase of a pump. North Dakota Corn Growers Association offers an additional $2,500. The typical cost of a blender pump is $20,000.

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Our Take:
We’d love to see this kind of investment program in every one of the 18 major corn growing states—certainly every one with an ethanol plant. Blender pumps are just one more way to get homegrown, cleaner-burning fuel into American motorists’ gas tanks.

With proposed CAFÉ and greenhouse gas rules making their way through EPA, blender pumps could be THE method for America to meet all of its goals for transportation—lowering carbon emissions, increasing mileage—Detroit engineers say they could take current technologies that combine direct injection and turbo-charging to a new level of efficiency and low emissions by using high-octane E30 (96 octane could really put a tiger in Detroit’s tank), especially if they optimized vehicle engines and fuels systems for the midlevel blend. We think blender pumps could be the wave of the future—helping America reduce its petroleum imports, lower carbon emissions and enjoy cleaner air.

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