E5 fuel consultation

This News Article follows a consultation request from the UK Government.

(The NAWCP are now on the Governments list of organisations to be
 consulted on anything related to the wedding industry or transport)

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Ethanol in Petrol – Background for NAWCP Members

Currently, most petrol stations in the UK offer two petrol grades: standard unleaded (known as premium), which represents 95% of sales and super unleaded. Both standard and super petrol grades currently marketed in the UK may contain up to 5% ethanol (known as E5). Most certainly, evidence indicates that all premium fuel offered for sale contains up to 5% ethanol, however, it may be that some suppliers, although able to do so, do not currently add any ethanol to the super grades of petrol.

However, with effect from March this year (2013) the EU regulation regarding the blend of 5% ethanol to standard fuel as the limit changed to allow up to 10% (known as E10) as the top limit (NB. for standard fuel only). Nevertheless, the government advises that for the time being there are no plans by the UK suppliers to introduce E10 on a large scale in the immediate future. Therefore unleaded standard E5 is expected to remain widely available. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that the roll-out of standard fuel E10 is a commercial decision and it may be that in certain areas E10 will replace the current standard E5 grade.

Currently, the increased limit of 10% ethanol blend for super fuel will not apply until January 2014.  Consequently, to ensure that for the next 3 years some E5 fuel remains available in the UK, the government is proposing to extend the current legal requirement of a maximum of 5% blend for super fuel until January 2017, after which it is assumed by the government that E10 will be compatible with the majority of petrol vehicles in the UK.

The actual government proposal states:

“We propose to extend the existing requirement that the ethanol content of super unleaded petrol sold at a filling station to be no more than 5% by volume until 1st January 2017. This requirement only applies to filling stations that have supplied not less than 3 million litres of fuel (petrol and diesel) in the previous year.”

Of interest is the last sentence (put into italics for convenience) which seems to suggest that there will be some smaller filling stations in the UK that will not need to comply with this extended regulation after January 2014! This is a concern.

The government has promulgated a Consultation document for public comment; it can be seen at: www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/232125/consultation-document.pdf

Comments on the government proposal are required by 27 September 2013.  It is realised that this does not give us much opportunity to obtain thoughts and feedback from our members regarding this proposal; consequently, we offer for your comment (by latest ‘close of play’ on 22 September 2013) the following draft NAWCP response to the government’s proposal.  Please do feel free to send your comments, supporting the draft or otherwise as soon as possible:

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The Proposed NAWCP Response to the Consultation Paper on the Proposed Amendment to the Motor Fuel Composition and Content Regulations 1999

1.     Background

1.1     The National Association of Wedding Car Professionals (NAWCP) represents 155 (and growing) wedding car businesses on a UK national basis.  The vast majority of UK wedding car businesses operate vintage, classic and older specialist vehicles which, in simplistic terms, have engines that were originally designed for lower grade petrol with lead as the only regular additive.  Many of the vintage, classic and specialist vehicles have since been converted to lead-free petrol or use an additive to replace the lead and as a consequence can run successfully with little further trouble.  However, since the addition of ethanol in petrol, engine and fuel supply problems can and do occur, causing additional expense and lost business time.  Furthermore, while the NAWCP represents wedding car businesses, the issued discussed in the submission are just as relevant to private owners of vintage, classic and specialist vehicles.

2.     Vehicle Problems and Environmental Effect

2.1     The NAWCP recognises that ethanol may have the virtue of being a renewable energy source, which, is a good thing if the engine using the fuel with ethanol added is specifically designed to use such fuel, but is not such a good thing if the engine was originally designed for non-ethanol fuel; principally, because of the corrosive nature of ethanol and its ability to absorb moisture and it is the corrosive nature and water absorbency that causes so many problems for vintage, classic and older specialist vehicles. The science behind ethanol blended petrol and its indifferent nature to older engines is well documented so it will not be repeated here, however, suffice to say that even E5 fuel can cause considerable problems over the longer period having a significant impact on the health and safety of us all.  Consider for example the increase in risk to the public of fuel leaks due to ethanol induced corrosion of (older style) fuel lines and tanks.  The more rapid deterioration of fuel pipes (and tank seals in vintage cars where the fuel tank is in the engine compartment) could easily result in petrol being sprayed onto a hot engine component such as the exhaust manifold or engine block.  Furthermore, engine malfunctions caused by incorrect metering of fuel due to ethanol in the petrol may increase the production of oxides of nitrogen in the exhaust fumes.  While modification to vintage, classic and specialist vehicles can sometimes be done, they are expensive and not always conclusive in the longer term.

2.2     Clearly, new vehicles will have a lower ‘carbon footprint’ (after they are built) than older cars, however, arguably, the largest carbon foot print a vehicle makes is during its construction.  Prematurely removing older vehicles from the road sounds attractive, but a well maintained older vehicle, as is the case with our member’s vehicles, will have a far lower detrimental effect on the environment than replacing it with a new vehicle.  Similarly, having to manufacture replacement, ethanol friendly, components for the older vehicles due the ravages of ethanol will also increase carbon emissions, which is the exact opposite of the intend goal of adding ethanol to petrol.  The eventual move, after January 2017, to allow up to E10 for all fuels will only exacerbate the problem in the long term.

3.     Additional Problems

3.1     All that said, there can be no doubt that the singular move to extend the availability of E5 fuel, albeit super fuel and consequently considerably more expensive, until January 2017 has some degree of merit, but the proposal limits this availability to:  “filling stations that have supplied not less than 3 million litres of fuel (petrol and diesel) in the previous year.”  Surely, this limitation will cause the problems previously mentioned to be prevalent amongst the older car fraternity living away from the main centres far sooner than January 2017? It is not believed that this is what the government wishes, as once again, it is the exact opposite of the intended goal of adding ethanol to petrol.  Fortunately, it is understood that some fuel supply companies are able to dispense zero ethanol fuel; blending ethanol with the petrol is the final process for the fuel supplier.  It is our understanding that ethanol is added only when the fuel is in the tanker ready to be delivered because if added sooner the ethanol would ‘attack’ the storage tanks in the fuel depot, and it is for this same reason that ethanol cannot be transferred along pipelines.  Consequently, it can unquestionably be a practicable option for zero E rated fuel to be made available to the consumer if legislation so dictated.

  1. Conclusion and Additional Proposals

4.1     In sum, the government proposal, while a temporary solution for just part of the problem, has our limited support, but it does not solve the basic and original vehicular and environmental problems created by the addition of any amount of ethanol in petrol.  Consequently, while having to support the basis of the proposed legislation we would also strongly urge the government to consider the following additional measures alongside the title proposal:

4.2     It is proposed that the government does:

  • Not limit the extension of the regulation to only those filling stations that have supplied not less than 3 million litres of fuel (petrol and diesel) in the previous year.”

4.3     It is further propose that additional legislation be put in place to:

  • Allow fuel companies to supply or continue to supply an amount of ethanol free fuel for the foreseeable future.
  • Ensure that all fuel pumps are clearly marked to indicate the ethanol content of the fuel dispensed.
  • Ensure that information regarding the effects of ethanol in petrol be freely available via a government website so that individuals and business can put in place a strategy to counter the effect of ethanol in older cars.

It is important that if you wish to comment or suggest amendments to the above you do so before 22nd September so we have time to update and file the NAWCP’s submission. You can of course submit your own comments directly at biofuels.transport@dft.gsi.gov.uk or write to:

Michael Wright,
Department for Transport,
Zone 1/32,
Great Minster House,
76 Marsham Street,
London,
SW1P 4DR

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You may comment below and all received prior to 22nd September will be considered before we submit our final response. (Note all comments are moderated and frivolous, facetious or those considered insulting or inappropriate will not be published).

Needless to say we will publish the final response if amended from the above.

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