Ethanol Codes, Standards, and Safety
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Underground Storage Tanks (OUST) regulates underground storage tanks (USTs) per Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) Title 40 Subtitle 1 Subchapter 1 Parts 280-282. The federal UST regulation was updated in October 2015 with section CFR 280.32 and provides clarity to the 1988 compatibility requirement by specifying additional compatibility requirements for owners and operators who store certain regulated substances, including gasoline containing more than 10% ethanol (and diesel containing greater than 20% biodiesel). All portions of a UST system must be compatible with the fuel being stored. Demonstrations of compatibility must be provided for tank, piping, containment sumps, pumping equipment, release detection equipment, spill equipment, and overfill equipment.
Codes and Regulations
Owners of USTs switching to store blends containing greater than E10 (or greater than B20) must:
- Notify their implementing agency (usually a state office) 30 days prior to switching fuels to store an E10+ (or B20+) blend.
Owners of USTs storing greater than E10 (or greater than B20) must demonstrate compatibility through either:
- A nationally recognized, independent testing laboratory certification or listing for the equipment used for the fuel stored; or
- Approval from the equipment or component manufacturer for use with the fuel stored. This statement affirming compatibility must be in writing and list the specific ranges of biofuel blend with which the equipment or component is compatible. Owners of USTs storing greater than E10 (or greater than B20) may also use another option determined by the implementing agency to be no less protective of human health and the environment.
Owners of USTs storing fuels containing greater than E10 (or greater than B20) must maintain records demonstrating compatibility as long as the fuel is stored.
Stations considering blends above E10 should contact their state and local authorities to identify other regulations and requirements beyond the federal regulations discussed here.
EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality developed additional requirements for E15 to reduce the risk of misfueling because the fuel is only approved for use in light-duty vehicles and trucks model year 2001 and newer. Stations selling E15 (defined as 10.5% to 15% ethanol) must adhere to the following requirements:
- An EPA-approved E15 label must be affixed to the dispenser.
- Adopt an EPA approved Misfueling Mitigation Plan (available free from Renewable Fuels Association).
- Product transfer documents must accompany all deliveries of fuel for E15 use.
- The retail station must participate in the fuel quality survey; register at www.rfgsa.org.
- Ethanol in E15 must meet ASTM D4806. Reid vapor pressure is limited to 9.0 psi in the summer.
- Stations must use EPA approved dispenser and hose configurations. Options include:
- A dedicated E15 hose
- A shared E0/E10/E15 hose, which requires a purchase of four gallons minimum ("four gallons minimum" label must be displayed)
- A dedicated dispenser selling E10 or less.
For more information on these requirements and lists of compatible equipment, see the Handbook for Handling, Storing, and Dispensing E85 and Other Ethanol-Gasoline Blends.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates some fuel-dispensing equipment. Its regulations applicable to service stations have not been updated in decades and therefore do not specifically address biofuels. OSHA is planning to update these standards to address new fuels in the marketplace.
OSHA 1910.106 (g)(3)(iv) and (g)(3)(vi)(a) require dispensers and nozzles to be listed by a third party for specific fuels.
OSHA 1910.106(b)(1)(i)(b) and (c)(2)(ii) require tanks, piping, valves, and fittings other than steel to use sound engineering design for materials used; however, there is no listing requirement. OSHA 1910.106(b)(1)(iii) covers steel tanks and requires sound engineering and compliance with UL 58 and American Petroleum Institute (API) Standards 650 and 12B as applicable.
Local authorities having jurisdiction typically adopt fire codes from one of two organizations, the National Fire Protection Association (in particular, Code 30A, which includes language on alternative compliance to address new fuels) and the International Code Council. These organizations provide standard codes for retail stations that are accepted or modified to meet local requirements.
Depending on the fueling site location, size of the storage tank, whether the tank is aboveground or underground, and specific state and local regulations, operators may need to comply with the following:
- Federal Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures (40 CFR, Part 112)
- State "spill" requirements
- Hazardous waste regulations
- State and local fire codes
- Petroleum product delivery laws
- Other state and local regulations (possibly).
Visit the following websites for more information:
- The U.S. EPA's Underground Storage Tanks, includes state-specific information and contacts
- Business and Legal Reports enables searches for federal and state regulations
UL is the primary third-party safety certification laboratory servicing the refueling equipment industry globally. There are many standards covering individual products in the fueling system and many different approaches to evaluating safety. Over time, many UL standards provided the option for equipment manufacturers to list their products for gasoline and gasoline–ethanol blends above E10. While some UL standards allow manufacturers to select which fuels to list for, there is trend towards revising standards to require equipment to be listed for all fuel types—this means equipment would be listed for use with gasoline, diesel, E85, and other commercial fuels. Depending on the standard, UL allows listing for E10 (all equipment); E25 (dispensers, hanging hardware); E85 (most equipment); and E100 (tanks and pipes).
Other organizations developing best practices, standards, and codes include American Petroleum Institute, Fiberglass Tank and Pipe Institute, NACE International, National Conference on Weights and Measure, National Leak Prevention Association, Petroleum Equipment Institute, and Steel Tank Institute.
Ethanol is poisonous and flammable. It should never be confused with beverage alcohol. Cigarettes and other open ignition sources should never be allowed in fueling areas.
In general, the same safety measures that apply to gasoline apply to ethanol blended fuels. All employees and fleet drivers should follow best practices when refueling:
- Know basic safety practices
- Understand the purpose and content of the fuel site's emergency action plan
- Be familiar with signage and emergency equipment including the emergency shutdown button.