In early May, the Kwik Trip convenience store chain announced it is joining other major fuel retailers in offering E15 — the corn-based biofuel containing 15% ethanol — to customers in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Kwik Trip is aggressively adopting E15 by leveraging existing infrastructure to offer it. The company plans to eventually sell E15 at most of its more than 500 locations.
In late April, Casey’s General Stores, another Midwest convenience store chain, announced it is expanding consumer choice by offering higher ethanol blends of E15 and E85 at 17 sites in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas. “E15 with 15% ethanol works well for any car 2001 and newer,” says Terry Handley, president and CEO of Casey’s. “E85 contains up to 83% ethanol and is a choice for flex-fuel vehicle owners.”
The Iowa Corn Promotion Board, Illinois Corn Marketing Board and Kansas Corn Commission, along with the ethanol industry group Growth Energy, are assisting Casey’s with the effort. Casey’s has over 1,950 stores across 15 states, making it the nation’s fourth-largest convenience-store chain. Adoption of higher biofuel blends by Kwik Trip and Casey’s marks a major milestone for renewable fuel availability, especially across rural America where demand for higher ethanol fuels is at an all-time high.
Giving motorists more fuel options
“We like the potential that E15 and E85 could bring to Casey’s and are excited to provide our customers with a wide variety of fueling options,” says Handley. “We appreciate the assistance Growth Energy and the farmers funding the corn checkoff in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas are providing for our E15 and E85 program.”
Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, commends Casey’s and Kwik Trip’s initiative in expanding their fuel offering to include clean-burning, high-octane and more affordable biofuel choices. “Each day more retailers are embracing higher ethanol blends because today’s 21st-century drivers demand 21st-century fuel,” says Skor. “E15, in particular, offers drivers an exceptional value in addition to tested higher performance and reduced emissions.”
Consumers are seeing the value E15 offers, from burning cleaner and cooler, which is better for engines and the environment, to saving up to 10 cents per gallon each trip at the pump, she says. “And we’re thrilled more and more Americans have access to it.”
Larry Klever, Iowa Corn Promotion Board president, applauds the move. “People have asked me over the years why Casey’s doesn’t handle E15. It is good news Casey’s is participating in this pilot project and I hope it’s successful for them.” A spokesman says the company doesn’t have plans at this time to expand beyond the initial 17 locations but Klever is hopeful. “Casey’s has a lot of stores in small towns across the Midwest,” he says. “It would be great if they could get a blender pump at all of them.”
E15 availability continues to increase
Kwik Trip and Casey’s join a number of retail chains such as Family Express, Kum & Go, Mapco, Minnoco, Murphy USA, Protec Fuels, QuikTrip, RaceTrac, Sheetz and Thorntons in offering their customers expanded fuel choices at the pump. Today, E15 is sold at more than 670 sites in 29 states, according to Growth Energy, marking a 200% increase in site count in two years.
“E15 is approved for use in all vehicles 2001 and newer and is the most tested fuel in history,” says Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. “The U.S. Department of Energy, NASCAR and consumers have put it to the test over millions of miles with great results.” He notes that Iowa has a successful tax credit program, a financial incentive for fuel retailers to install blender pumps and tanks to handle higher blends. Another source of cost-share funding to get retailers to handle higher blends is Growth Energy’s “Prime the Pump” program.
To find the nearest E15 station, go to getethanol.com.
Ethanol cracks blend wall, dispels myths
Gasoline consumed in the U.S. in 2016 contained more than 10% ethanol on average for the first time ever, according to an analysis of U.S. Energy Information Administration data by the Renewable Fuels Association. The EIA data dispels the myth that 10% is the marketplace limit for ethanol content in U.S. gasoline. It shows that the so-called “blend wall” is not a real constraint on ethanol consumption, says RFA President Bob Dinneen.
“EIA’s data once again shows that the oil industry’s blend wall narrative is bankrupt, intended only to mislead consumers and undermine support for the Renewable Fuel Standard,” he says. “Driven by the RFS and attractive blending economics, U.S. refiners and blenders used more ethanol in 2016 than ever before, and it’s likely that trend will continue this year.”
According to EIA data, the average ethanol content of gasoline consumed in 2016 was 10.04%, undermining the American Petroleum Institute’s claims that the gasoline market cannot accommodate more than 9.7% ethanol due to purported infrastructure and vehicle constraints. The last time average ethanol content was below 9.7% was April 2015.
Higher consumption of E15 (gasoline blends containing 15% ethanol), midlevel blends (containing 20% to 50% ethanol) and flex fuels (containing 51% to 83% ethanol) was responsible for the increase in the average ethanol content of U.S. gasoline in 2016. The 2016 consumption of midlevel blends and flex fuels was at least 450 million gallons. Other key findings include:
• National average ethanol content was 10% or higher in six of the last seven months of 2016, culminating with a record-high monthly rate of 10.30% in December.
• On a weekly basis, the ethanol blend rate hit a record of 10.41% in January.
“The analysis unequivocally proves EPA needs to implement the 15 billion-gallon statutory requirement for conventional biofuel when it issues its proposed 2018 RFS volume obligations, which are expected soon,” says Dinneen.