Another nail has been driven into the coffin of ethanol free fuel in the Pacific Northwest. Practically all of the gasoline in western Washington and western Oregon comes from four major refineries on the Puget sound north of Seattle. Since Oregon is already a mandatory E10 state due to a state law, we have been receiving mostly suboctane blending product, called BOB, to make our E10 gasoline for more than a year. All of that product, except a small amount that comes in by ocean-going barge, comes down the Olympic pipeline from those four refineries.
On Nov. 10, the Oregon Department of Agriculture, which is in charge of enforcing the mandatory E10 law, got a letter from the petroleum industry stating that on or about Dec. 1, the ONLY product coming down the Olympic pipeline will be BOB with a maximum octane of 90, which really doesn’t make any difference because BOB isn’t legal “finished” gasoline, no matter what AKI it is. It can only be used for blending with ethanol to make legal finished gasoline.
The implications are clear. All of the distribution terminals in western Washington have been converted to E10 capability and now the refineries will only produce BOB, which reduces their production costs. Ethanol-free gasoline will completely disappear unless it is trucked in from Canada, as is done in the Northeast, or brought in by ocean barge from the Orient, which actually happens. It is likely that the small amount of ethanol-free premium gasoline now entering Oregon comes by barge from California, but that will disappear as California converts its terminals to all E10 and the refineries switch to all BOB production, same as Washington.
It has to happen to satisfy the ethanol blending requirements in the federal RFS mandate, EISA 2007. Canada is considering a mandatory E5 law and supply from the Orient will always be tenuous. The reality is that the oil industry will not want to distribute such a boutique product, unless states, or the EPA, move to prohibit the blending of ethanol in all premium unleaded gasoline.
The letter is online here
Submitted by Dean Billing
The GAfuels Blog is written by three private pilots concerned about the future availability of fuels for piston-engine aircraft. They are:
- Dean Billing (Sisters, Ore.) – an expert on autogas and ethanol
- Kent Misegades (Cary, N.C.) – an aerospace engineer and aviation journalist
- Todd Petersen (Minden, Neb.) – former aerial applicator and owner of more than 150 Mogas STCs for aircraft
For a list of airports that have ethanol-free fuel and those no longer pumping it, compiled by the authors, follow this link.