Blender Pump Dispensers
Updated April 2, 2012
Federal and local initiatives to increase the use of ethanol in transportation have resulted in an increase of new ideas and applications for flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) and E85, a high-level gasoline blend containing 51% to 83% ethanol, depending on geography or season. Consumers, fueling station operators, and public safety officials have shown interest in new FFV fueling alternatives. One of these options is the ethanol blender pump dispenser. While blender pump dispensers have been commonly used to dispense conventional fuels, the application of this technology for ethanol has generated a lot of interest and questions because of its ability to dispense various blends of ethanol and gasoline from a single dispenser. In addition to dispensing E85, FFV owners can also access lower level blends at the same dispenser. The USDA and a few states offer financial assistance for installation costs. Blender pump dispensers offer FFV owners more choices—allowing drivers to choose the blend of fuel they want to use based on price, their vehicle's fuel economy, and other factors.
What are blender pump dispensers?
Blender pumps are fuel dispensers that draw fuel from two separate storage tanks and can dispense preprogrammed blends of those two fuels. Many conventional stations today use blender pump dispensers to generate midgrade gasoline from a blend of regular gasoline and premium gasoline in their storage tanks. In ethanol applications, blender pump dispensers allow station owners to blend from E85 and conventional gasoline in their tanks to create intermediate ethanol blends. This allows station owners and FFV drivers to choose which ethanol blend they prefer, based on operating characteristics and price. On the pump, there is one hose specifically designated for ethanol blends. FFV owners can select E20, E30, or other ethanol blends up to E85 offered by the station. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) listed ethanol blender pump dispensers are available from Gilbarco and Wayne.
Why would a station owner want to install an ethanol blender pump?
Blender pump dispensers provide FFV consumers with fuel choices. The consumer may select different ethanol blends based on price, impacts on vehicle fuel economy and driving range, and environmental and energy security benefits. Station owners may benefit because it allows them to provide their FFV customers with more options. Some station owners may also be eligible for federal or state tax incentives if they blend these fuels onsite.
Can any vehicle use fuel from blender pump dispensers?
Any vehicle can use conventional gasoline or ethanol blends up to E10. However, only FFVs can use ethanol blends above E10. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits the volume of ethanol for other vehicles to no more than E10. This limit is set based on what is considered to be both legal and safe for use in vehicles that were not originally designed for ethanol fuels. Therefore, clear labeling of vehicle requirements on dispensers is critical. Boating/marine vessels and small engines (lawn mowers, weed trimmers, chain saws, etc.) are not designed for use with ethanol blends above E10. To avoid potential safety and performance issues, consumers should check with the manufacturer of the specific equipment they have before considering use of higher ethanol blends.
What fuels do ethanol blender pumps dispense?
Aside from gasoline or E10 and E85, E20 and E30 are the most commonly available blends, according to a polling of 20 stations with blender pump dispensers. Some stations dispense E15, E40, and E50. The blend is selected by the station owner, generally based upon FFV driver demand and local market pricing.
Where are ethanol blender pump stations located?
As of February 2011, there were over 263 stations with blender pump dispensers offering mid-level ethanol blends. The stations are concentrated in Midwest states—particularly in Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota.
Will I get better fuel economy with mid-level ethanol blends?
A DOE study measured fuel economy drops for mid-level ethanol blends. The average measured fuel economy drop (decrease in miles per gallon) was 3.7% with E10, 5.3% with E15, and 7.7% with E20 when compared with gasoline.[i] An Oak Ridge National Laboratory report found flexible fuel vehicles using E85 experienced a 27% drop in fuel economy when compared with conventional gasoline.[ii]