E15 Sales Fall Because Of RVP

  • Wednesday, 10 August 2016 13:36

As expected E15 sales in Minnesota fell in June as a result of the EPA-imposed Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) season, which bars the sale of E15 from June 1 to Sept 15. 

The Minnesota Department of Commerce reports E15 sales fell to 224,860 gallons in June from a record of 530,766 gallons in May. The volume in June is the lowest monthly volume recorded since September last year (248,330 gallons). Still, on a year-on-year comparison, E15 sales in June 2016 was still 44 percent higher than the volume recorded in June 2015 (155,867 gallons). 

The Minnesota Department of Commerce also said E85 sales in June reached its highest this year at 1.15 million gallons. Using data from the Minnesota Department of Revenue, it said E85 sales grew 20 percent in June from May.

In addition, the Department of Commerce notified the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association that it's previous E15 volume for May of 603,530 galllons was an error and that the actual volume was 530,766 gallons. 

Nonetheless, the key highlight of the report was the dramatic drop in E15 sales in June which underscores the adverse effects of the EPA's illogical RVP ban on E15 sales.

To recap, the RVP limit (9.0) is set to reduce evaporation of fuel from cars and storage and transfer equipment during the summer months. When gasoline evaporates, it contributes to smog.

The PSI for E10 increases by 1 during the summer months but Congress-imposed an RVP waiver for E10. Here's the best part. According to the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the RVP for E15 is indistinguishable from E10. In other words, there are no logical reasons the RVP waiver isn't being extended to E15.

It's also important to note that ethanol has a lower RVP than gasoline and that the PSI in E10 only increases because of the blending of ethanol and gasoline and the RVP of the gasoline blendstock used. If a gasoline blendstock with a lower PSI is used, the RVP becomes a non-issue but that's not always readily available. You can read more here.   

The long and short of it is that E15 cannot be sold from June 1 to Sept 15 every year. During this period, most E15 retailers rebrand E15 as a flex-fuel (as this RVP ban doesn't extend to flex-fuels). One can only imagine the confusion consumers face when a fuel they've been using the past five months can now only be sold for flex-fuel vehicles. And this frustration extends to retailers who have made investments to offer E15.   

In previous years, we've seen the sale of E15 drop during the RVP season but the magnitude this year has been the biggest so far. That 224,860 gallons of E15 was still consumed is the only encouraging aspect as it seems unlikely all those gallons were solely used in flex-fuel vehicles. After all flex-fuel vehicle owners have far cheaper options than E15. 

As such, it shows that there is demand for cleaner fuels like E15 and if the EPA truly wants to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, than it has to act or work with Congress to extend the RVP waiver to E15. Thanks to the RVP, emissions in Minnesota increased in June because E15 could not be sold to all 2001 and newer cars that weren't flex-fuel vehicles. And it will continue to increase until the RVP season ends on Sept 15. 

With more stations set to offer E15 in the coming months thanks to grants from the same federal government the EPA is part of, the annual RVP season for E15 can no longer be the normal. It's time for the EPA to get serious and show its commitment to biofuels and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

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