Installing E85 Equipment
Installing E85 equipment is like installing conventional gasoline equipment. The same permits apply. Professionals familiar with local conditions and regulations should be consulted before a project begins. That's because every fueling location is unique and could require additional steps.
Determine Fueling Specifications
It's important for a retail station operator or fleet manager to estimate the amount of onsite fuel storage needed. It's easier and more cost effective to install a tank that enables future growth than to re-enter a site and disturb operations to add more capacity. This is especially true if the cost of a slightly larger tank is minimal. Allow room for future growth, and consider allowing nearby fleet operations to share the fueling site with you.
A fleet operator needs to balance the inventory of fuel to store over the typical 30- to 60-day period. Extra per-gallon costs are incurred if fuel is ordered in small or partial loads. If there are other fleets or E85 retailers in the area, it may be possible to share transport loads (8,000 gallons or a "milk run").
Hiring a Project Contractor
In most cases, a fleet operator hires a project contractor to alter the onsite fueling system. This is often done through a bid process, especially if it is a fueling site operated by a government entity. The contractor is responsible for project oversight and successful project completion.
Review Bid Proposals, Select a Contractor
If a bid selection is used, it's likely that firms planning to bid on the job will be asked to help provide site- and fuel-specific details and equipment needs for preparing the official bid. This bid is then advertised before it is awarded to the company that best meets the criteria of the bid.
Create a Project Timeline
Once the contractor is selected and the agreements are signed, the company's plan for the site is set in motion. Equipment ordering—as well as scheduling excavation, concrete, and electrical work—can be the biggest factors in determining how long a project will take. Locations involving new concrete require one to two weeks for proper curing before vehicles can be driven on them. Poor weather can also delay a project. An experienced contractor will be able to plan a reasonable project timeline.
Secure Permits, Adhere to State Requirements
The contractor is responsible for ensuring that all permits are secured for the project. A city or county permit, which is usually obtained through the building inspector's office, will be necessary for fleet and retail fueling site projects. Projects using aboveground tanks may involve additional local fire marshal and state requirements. Some municipalities no longer allow aboveground fuel storage tanks. Underground storage tank requirements might have different requirements. However, their use must also meet all state guidelines and electrical codes. The contractor will register storage tanks with the state environmental agency, which will register the new tanks with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). If a petroleum fuel tank is converted to E85 operation, the state environmental agency is notified of the change in status.
Install Equipment, Prepare the Site, Conduct Testing
All existing tank manufacturers have provided statements of compatibility with E85 per EPA's Guidance - Compatibility of UST Systems with Biofuel Blends. It may be necessary to install a new tank to accommodate more fuel types. Once the storage tank and associated equipment are procured, excavation and other site preparations can begin. Projects involving underground storage tanks will need to have the tank set into the hole and the fuel loaded into the tank at the time of backfilling. Typically this practice involves loading the tank to 90% of capacity to ensure the tank does not shift during backfilling. Aboveground tanks can be loaded with fuel at the discretion of the site operator. Following the wiring and plumbing of the system, minor dirt work and concrete finishing is done. After a few days—or when the dispenser can be delivered to the site—the dispenser is set on its concrete pedestal and undergoes wiring and plumbing to the system. Once the dispenser is set, the system can be tested for leakage (tightness test), proper working order, and dispensing accuracy. At about this time, the necessary labeling, decaling, and signage are completed.
Complete Inspection Process
It is the contractor's responsibility to notify everyone involved—including the client—of developments and to ensure the completed project passes standards and codes set by the city building inspector, state or local fire marshals, or state electrical inspector.
A final walkthrough is conducted between the contractor and client to ensure the completed project meets expectations.