The GAfuels Blog is written by two private pilots concerned about the future availability of fuels for piston-engine aircraft: Dean Billing, Sisters, Ore., an expert on autogas and ethanol, and Kent Misegades, Cary, N.C., an aerospace engineer and aviation journalist.
The process of separating ethanol out of unleaded auto fuel is a much discussed topic on many aviation forums, blogs and media articles. In fact, there are now commercial enterprises that are offering ethanol “washers” so you can remove ethanol from gasoline. It does strike me as rather odd that so many people spend so much effort on the process, and try to accommodate ethanol blended gasoline in their lives when they could be putting that effort and energy into getting ethanol blending prohibited in premium unleaded gasoline so it would be widely available for everyone who needs it … and there are an awful lot of people who need it. Just look at the nearly 3,000 comments on our petition to the EPA. If you have not signed this yet, please do, and pass the word on.
Anyway, here are a few things that a pilot should consider if they are contemplating “washing” ethanol out of unleaded auto fuel that is blended with ethanol, usually at the 10% level, commonly known as E10. If you do this, you cannot use the resultant “fuel” in any TC’d aircraft, even if you have a Mogas STC, nor any S-LSA aircraft, because there is no way to assure that resultant “fuel” is ASTM D4814 compliant, as it most assuredly isn’t because it is something you created, not something that was delivered as finished legal gasoline.
That leaves those owners of airplanes that are amateur built or ultralights to contemplate using this unknown fuel. You can actually legally use this fuel if you have a placard at the fuel tank for it, since you are the “manufacturer” of the airplane. You just need to accurately describe it on the placard.
So what is this “fuel”? How will you describe it on the placard? This is what the director of the Division of Air Resources, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said in his comments on the E15 waiver:
“E10 is not simply ethanol added to finished gasoline. Since most gasoline at retail contains ethanol, the industry factors the addition of ethanol into the formulation of the petroleum-based portion of the final blend. The chemical properties of ethanol and its dilution impact allow refiners to produce a petroleum-based blendstock which when combined with a specified amount of ethanol (or other oxygenate) results in a final blend with the desired legal and market properties. The petroleum-based blendstock, in most cases, would not qualify as gasoline or be legal to sell as gasoline. For RFG this blendstock is RBOB. For conventional gasoline it is CBOB, and for California RFG it is CaRBOB.”
Of course you don’t know what kind of fuel BOB actually is, and you don’t know how “washing” ethanol out of it has changed it, so I suggest you placard your homebuilt for “Unknown Octane Swamp Gas (UOSG)”, because that is as good a guess as anything. And by the way, what do you plan on doing with the water-ethanol residue? Be advised that whatever it is, it is considered a hazardous material in most of the U.S. You might want to contact your state Department of Environmental Quality about how to dispose of it properly.
Now, is all of this really worth the effort? Or would your time be better spent getting your state legislature or the EPA to prohibit the blending of ethanol in premium unleaded gasoline so that everyone who needs ethanol free fuel has it. You aren’t alone, agitate!
Submitted by Dean Billing