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UL Still Dithering on E85 Fueling Gear

11 December 2006

In October 2006, Underwriters Laboratories suspended the authorization to use UL Markings (Listing or Recognition) on components for fuel dispensing devices that specifically reference compatibility with alcohol-blended fuels that contain greater than 15% alcohol—e.g., E85. (Earlier post.)

After a set of technical meetings in November, UL is still unable to establish a list of generically acceptable metals or non-metals for use in E85 fueling systems.

Based on the information and technical data received to date, a list of generically acceptable metals or non-metals for use in E85 environments cannot be established at this time. UL anticipates that testing will be necessary to determine suitability for use. UL is acting on the information that had been identified during and after the Technical Forum, and reviewing additional actions that may be necessary, to establish appropriate testing protocols and certification requirements for E85 dispensers.

—UL update, 6 December 2006

Phil Lampert, Executive Director of the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, is becoming decreasingly optimistic about a rapid resolution to the situation.

Our concern is that there is not one molecule of evidence that the use of E85 in existing dispensers has resulted in failure of the equipment. It is becoming apparent that the development of a testing protocol and subsequent equipment certifications may require a period of many months. The E85 industry is on the verge of tremendous growth and a long delay to develop a certification process would be extremely damaging.

Our efforts with UL are now being focused on the establishment of interim guidance documents so that “authorities having jurisdiction” can use their own judgment to determine if E85 systems are causing a potential hazard. We obviously do not believe there is any hazard associated with the dispensing of E85.

—Phil Lampert, NEVC

To date, UL has not certified any motor fuel dispensers for use with E85.

December 11, 2006 in Ethanol, Infrastructure | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

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Comments

Typical bureaucracy. If they can dispense E100 "alcool" in Brazil, I think we could pump some E20 here.

UL is a independent not for profit organization. I do ponder what is taking them so long.

Well, I think its safe to assume that big farm is NOT holding back UL. Big oil would probably see it as a waste of time (ethanol really isn't a threat at the moment).

Maybe UL is acting in the interest of the consumer/buisness? Maybe Brazil will have to replace a lot of pumps pretty soon?

UL is acting on behalf of the insurance industry, which is who founded them, funds them and runs them. Insurance has a vested interest in preventing gas station fires (think of all the claims they'd have to pay out), so as a general matter I tend to respect their judgments. At the same time, I can't seem to figure out what the holdup is in this case. It stands to reason that we know how to store and use alcohol and gasoline (flexfuel cars have the materials compatibility issues worked out, as to the major refiners, blenders and ethanol plants). Perhaps it has to do with the unique operating environment of gas dispensing equipment -- all weather conditions, tanks buried in the ground, potential for water infiltration and corrosion, etc. I'd like to see a concise statement of what they are worried about.

I am sure part of the E85 issues the UL laboratories have is with rubber degrading in seals and or hoses. Some rubbers swell and soften, or even disolve, when exposed to certain elements, while others may degrade by becoming hard and brittle. The chemical industry plants have a much better handle on maintenance in handling this, over a typical convenience store, which may handle varying ratios of ethanol. (There are also issues with older vehicles not designed for ethanol.)

I think John hit it on the head. Brazil may be replacing pumps/hoses etc in the near future, and may be comfortable doing so. Here in America, increased maintenance over what is considered normal, would merit questions as to why. Hence, the UL labs apprehension on approval.

How many 9s of safety?

One '9' is 90%. 1 in 10 will fail. That's likely way to high
Two '9's is 99%. Again, too dangerous.

The question is... how many 9s are appropriate? Well, it depends on what failure means. Is it merely a cost issue, or would failure endanger people or property in an immediate or long term exposure situation? The more 9s you have, the farther you go into the margins -- extreme heat, cold, and changes. Extreme dust. Extreme wind, precipitation, or other weather concerns. You get the idea.

UL has some damn high standards, and maintaining their reputation is far more important to them than getting E20 out the door as soon as possible -- as it should be.

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