Underwriters Laboratories Ethanol Dispenser Safety Testing

Updated August 12, 2010

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) establishes safety requirements and testing procedures for automotive fuel dispenser systems. Products and equipment that have passed these tests are considered "listed" or certified by UL as compliant with safety protocols. In 2007, UL published new testing procedures for E85 ethanol dispenser systems and, in 2009, published testing procedures for mid-level (up to E25 ethanol) blend dispensers.

The listing process ensures material compatibility, adherence to fire safety codes, and consistency across related products. Local fire codes and safety standards often specify that this kind of fueling equipment must be listed by a safety testing organization such as UL for building permits to be issued or before the equipment can be placed into service. Some jurisdictions will grant a waiver or variance on a case-by-case basis for alternative equivalent dispensers for mid- to high-level ethanol blends that are not yet UL certified.

Refer to the "Status Updates" section of this technology bulletin for the most current update related to UL listings and approvals for ethanol fueling equipment.

UL Status and Process

The status of UL safety testing and certification for ethanol fueling equipment continues to make progress. UL has certified dispensers for blends up to E10 (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline) and dispensers for mid-level blends up to E25 (25% ethanol, 75% gasoline). UL has also certified dispensers and hanging hardware for E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline).

There are three fuel dispenser certification paths for new equipment:

  • UL Standard 87 for gasoline and ethanol-gasoline blends up to E10
  • UL Subject 87A-E25 for gasoline and mid-level ethanol-gasoline blends up to E25
  • UL Subject 87A-E85 for gasoline and ethanol-gasoline fuel blends up to E85

The time it takes to complete the testing and certification process depends on the how well the equipment performs. For more information, read the updates in the box above or see:

New Product Certification and Testing

For new products, individual manufacturers, industry groups, or insurance underwriters usually approach a standards development organization (SDO) or testing agency, like UL, well in advance of new product introductions and work together to develop rigorous safety standards and testing procedures used to evaluate the product. The group of manufacturers and industry partners interested in introducing the product to the market usually bears the cost of standards development and subsequent testing work. For more information on how the certification process works, see About UL Mark Product Certification.

Fuel Dispenser Fire Safety Codes

Each authority adopts codes and standards for its jurisdiction. These codes may be set and enforced on a state, regional, or local level. Two organizations, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the International Code Council (ICC), provide standard codes that are accepted or modified to meet local requirements. UL accommodates these codes in their listing process.

NFPA 30A Code The NFPA 30A Code for Motor Fuel Dispensing Facilities and Repair Garages is the basic requirement for listing E85 dispensers.
  • 6.3.2 Dispensing devices for Class I liquids shall be listed.
  • 6.3.2.1 Existing listed or labeled dispensing devices shall be permitted to be modified provided that the modifications made are "Listed by Report" by an approved testing laboratory or as otherwise approved by the authority having jurisdiction. Modification proposals shall contain a description of the component parts used in the modification and the recommended methods of installation on specific dispensing devices. Modification proposals shall be made available to the authority having jurisdiction upon request.
ICC 2009
International
Fuel Gas Code
The 2009 edition of the ICC 2009 International Fuel Gas Code book has information on the Code for Motor Fuel Dispensing Facilities and Repair Garages in the Installation Section (section number 305).

Waivers and Variances

Many jurisdictions allow an alternate equivalent dispenser design to be submitted for approval. Each jurisdiction has its own process and discretion in granting variances or waivers to approve designs not UL certified. In the NFPA 30A Code, it addresses the process for approving equivalent equipment:

  • 1.5 Equivalency. Nothing in this code is intended to prevent the use of systems, methods, or devices of equivalent or superior quality, strength, fire resistance, effectiveness, durability, and safety over those prescribed by this code. Technical documentation shall be submitted to the authority having jurisdiction to demonstrate equivalency. The system, method, or device shall be approved for the intended purpose by the authority having jurisdiction.

Contacts

For questions about waivers or variances, contact your local state energy office or a Clean Cities coordinator.

State Letters and Documents

Many states have granted variances or waivers. Refer to the following letters from state officials and other state documents about E85.

Resources