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E20 For The EU?

  • Thursday, 07 September 2017 14:45

A recent study by the European Commission Directorate-General for Climate Action identifies E20 as the optimal ethanol blend for the EU.

The study, which outlines an extensive economic and environmental analysis of increasing biofuel blends, said biofuel blends are crucial for EU states to meet their GHG reduction obligations.

While most EU member states have E5 blends, the report mentions the potential of increasing blending rates and found E20 to be the most optimal blend in terms of infrastructure adaptation and GHG emission goals.

Surprisingly, the report said oil companies agree: “The oil companies thus conclude that if ethanol blends are to increase, it appears to be that E20 strikes the right balance against increased infrastructure costs.”

In fact, the report mentioned that “as of 2011, the majority of the petrol cars made in the EU are already E20 tolerant. This means that even if vehicles have been type approved and fully compatible for lower blends, no safety or technical issues will occur if the higher blend is used.”

The report found reduced tailpipe emissions for vehicles using E20. It should be noted that those vehicles did not undergo modifications to be optimized for E20.

The tests were conducted on a 1.2L naturally aspirated Peugeot 208 and a 1.4L turbocharged Volkswagen Golf.  Among the fuels tested included commercial E5 and E10 blends, E20 and E25 splash blends and an E20 match blend where the base fuel was modified for E20.

It confirmed that increasing ethanol blends reduced particulate matter and hydrocarbons.

“Based on a review of literature, ethanol blends will result in emission reductions ranging from 5-20% of regulated pollutants (carbon monoxide (CO); particulate matter (PM), hydrocarbons (HC)) and air toxics (benzene) when compared to current engines using E0,” it said.

It was also confirmed that splash blending of E20 from an E5 base will reduce RVP.

The study did add that engines optimized to run on E20 and take advantage of ethanol’s higher octane would further reduce emissions.  As future vehicles are expected to be equipped with turbocharged engines or high compression ratios, ethanol’s inherent octane properties are well situated to provide engine efficiency benefits.

“In the case of ethanol blends, hardware and/or software changes have been incorporated into the vehicle to achieve the fuel efficiency benefit of the biofuel blend. For example, in the case of E20 rated at 100+RON (95 AKI), this could result in fuel efficiency gains between 3 percent and 6.4 percent...The increased RON of the E20 blend can be used to increase the compression ratio of the engine or the boost level of the turbo, which in turn can enhance fuel efficiency,” it said.

The study mentioned the costs of optimization will be small for naturally aspirated engines and turbocharged engines, if the changes are incorporated in the design stage.

It reported that manufacturers recommend creating a new high octane fuel that takes advantage of ethanol’s octane value in future vehicle designs.

“Mercedes and Ford, in particular, have suggested that 15 percent to 20 percent of ethanol be ‘splash blended’ or specially blended with current E5 95 RON fuel that is the base fuel available in much of the EU today. Other manufacturers are more cautious but supportive of the trend towards a higher octane fuel. Splash blending will result in an E20/25 fuel with a RON of about 100 to 102 when starting from a 92 RON blend-stock used for E5, or 102 to 104 if splash blended with E0 95 RON fuel,” the study said.

In conclusion, the report said a “high octane E20 strategy has the advantage of providing a 3 percent to 6.4 percent energy efficiency benefit potential for the auto-industry and provides value to the customer from the high octane rating of ethanol.

“This high octane E20 fuel could slowly displace hydrocarbon based premium petrol (98+ RON) in the EU starting in 2020 as auto-manufacturers introduce more vehicle models capable of exploiting the octane advantage of E20 and eventually become the mainstream fuel by 2030. The fuel could result in positive benefits for regulated pollutants (20 percent lower CO, 20-30 percent lower PM, 1-7 percent lower CO2) and toxic emissions (lower benzene).

“The strategy of using E20 as a premium fuel is to allow market introduction of this fuel without a complete overhaul of the fleet and the refueling infrastructure. The ultimate goal is to make E20 a mainstream fuel of choice for all consumers.”