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Old 10-27-2006, 07:21 PM   #1
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Default Ethanol Could Corrode Pumps, Testers Say

Ethanol Could Corrode Pumps, Testers Say

CHICAGO, Oct. 26 — The farm-produced fuel that is supposed to help wean America from its oil addiction is under scrutiny for its potentially corrosive qualities.

E85, a blend of 85 percent corn-based ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, could be eating away at metal and plastic parts in pumps being used to dispense the fuel at gasoline stations, Underwriters Laboratories, the private product-safety testing group, said this month.

BP, the British oil company, said on Thursday that it would delay the expansion of E85 at its American gasoline outlets until the laboratories certified an E85 dispensing system. “BP is tracking this issue very closely,” Valerie Corr, a company spokeswoman, said.

Underwriters Laboratories and the Department of Energy are holding two days of hearings next week at the testing group’s headquarters outside Chicago, inviting oil companies, automakers and researchers to help develop standards for E85 equipment.

Underwriters Laboratories, which certifies the safety of everything from toasters to televisions, has temporarily withdrawn authorization for the U.L.-approved label on parts used in E85 dispensers. Those dispensers, it turns out, were modified from regular gasoline dispensers and were certified only for a maximum of 15 percent ethanol concentration; U.L. said it had never certified any E85-specific pumps.

The reversal has heightened concerns among some oil companies about the safety of E85 pumps on the market and threatens to slow the proliferation of the fuel, which automakers, President Bush and Midwest lawmakers are pushing as a homegrown alternative to gasoline.

Ethanol is primarily used as a 10 percent additive in gasoline, but in higher concentrations like E85 it can corrode some types of metal and even make some plastics brittle over time.

The testing group’s decision comes after about a decade of E85 sales without any known safety problems. It means that the pumps currently dispensing E85 do not meet some state and local fire codes that require certification from U.L. or another independent tester.

The standards review could take six months to two years, said John Drengenberg, U.L.’s consumer affairs manager. He said that the group would immediately begin testing E85 dispensers once a new standard was in place. “We are moving as quickly as possible to get these technically correct standards in place,” Mr. Drengenberg said.

E85 is offered in more than 1,000 stations, mostly in the Midwest. Some states, including Iowa and Minnesota, are offering financial incentives so that retailers will install the pumps, and federal money is also available. But the expanded use of the fuel has been slow.

Wal-Mart Stores, which announced in May that it was considering offering E85 at nearly 400 Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart stores nationwide, has yet to say which stores, if any, will offer the fuel. “We are still in the consideration phase on E85,” said Kevin Gardner, a Wal-Mart spokesman, and the certification issue “is one more thing to consider.”

In Iowa, the largest corn-growing state, plans to triple the number of E85 pumps over the next two years are moving ahead, said Lucy Norton, managing director for the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. A state law does not require U.L.-approved dispensers until July 1, 2009, and the state fire marshal has said the certification issue “will not have any immediate effect on the dispensing of E85 in the state,” Ms. Norton said.

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Old 10-28-2006, 06:13 PM   #2
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Trust the NY times to put the most negative possible spin on an article.

There have been no reported problems with current equipment!
There have been no safety related issues or injuries reported!

This is an effort by UL to bring a set of uniform standards to bear (something they should have been working on for 5 years or so).

It was unfortunate that they chose to "de-list" current equipment, rather than use a less disruptive process such as advising that there are currently no consistant industry standards and that they were starting on a uniform standard and current equipment may or may not meet the new standard when it comes out.

They also chose to blindside the industry and the groups working to get E85 in the field by making this announcement without any comment or review period process.

In fact they recently published a followup that reinforces that there is no current safety issue behind the decision to de-list.

This is encouraging and allows certain officials like fire marshals to make reasonable decisions based on a considerable historical base of trouble free operation of this equipment.

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Old 10-28-2006, 09:02 PM   #3
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I'm not sure how reporting Underwriter Labs' finding counts as "spin."

Maybe it's the evil liberal media's conspiracy against corn.
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Old 10-29-2006, 01:17 AM   #4
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No it is an inappropriate title!

Instead of "Ethanol Could Corrode Pumps, Testers Say" it should have been "Underwriter labs moves to produce consistant standards for e85 pump equipment".


Here's the orginal UL memo and follow up documents:

Fuel Dispenser Components containing Ethanol & Other Alcohol Blended Fuels
As of October 5, 2006, Underwriters Laboratories Inc. has suspended 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 (i.e. ethanol, methanol or other alcohols). Dispenser components as they relate to use with traditional fuel blends (i.e., blended fuels containing 15% or less alcohols) are unaffected. In all cases, acceptability of fuel dispensers for using alcohol-blended fuels containing greater than 15% alcohol (e.g., E-85) remains at the discretion of the Authority Having Jurisdiction.
Research indicates that the presence of high concentrations of Ethanol or other alcohols within blended fuels makes these fuels significantly more corrosive. This may result in the fuel chemically attacking the materials used in fuel dispenser components, and may ultimately degrade the dispenser’s ability to contain the fuel. While UL has no evidence of field issues related to this application, we are suspending authorization to use the UL Mark on components used in dispensing devices that will dispense any alcohol blended fuels containing over 15% alcohol until updated certification requirements are established and the effected components have been found to comply with them.
Our engineers are actively reviewing current E-85 research and meeting with industry and government experts to gather the information required to draft the revised certification requirements. UL anticipates that testing of E-85 dispenser components will commence immediately following publication of UL's E-85 certification requirements, as they pertain to the use of these higher alcohol blended fuels on dispenser a system. We remain committed to undertaking in an expeditious manner the thorough and broad based effort necessary to develop the appropriate requirements that will adequately address E-85 compatibility.
We are here to answer any questions you may have and will respond promptly to your inquires. For comments or questions, please contact us at [email protected].


Follow up memo from UL

Additional Information on Authorization Suspension of Dispenser Components for use with E-85
On October 5, 2006, Underwriters Laboratories suspended authorization for manufacturers 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 (i.e. ethanol, methanol or other alcohols). For your reference, the complete October 5th announcement is available at http://www.ul.com/gasandoil/ethanol.html).
The following provides background information and answers to commonly asked questions related to our recent suspension. We hope this is of use in making acceptance decisions of ethanol fuel dispensing installations in your jurisdiction.
No Existing Safety Requirements for E-85 Dispensers
UL Standard 87 includes safety requirements for power-operated dispensing devices for petroleum products, such as gasoline for use as motor fuel. This Standard does not address safety requirements for using alternative fuels, such as E-85, within those dispensers. Published studies on ethanol indicate that-in high concentrations-it may have significantly enhanced corrosive effects versus traditional gasoline. Prior to testing and potentially certifying E-85 rated dispensers, UL must establish the appropriate safety requirements, taking into consideration relevant technical issues such as material compatibility unique to these products.
No Reported Safety Incidents for UL Listed or Recognized Sub-Assemblies with E-85
The need to establish consistent and appropriate safety requirements for E-85 dispensers and components was the impetus for suspending authorization to use UL Markings (Listing or Recognition) on components for fuel dispensing devices using E-85. UL has never certified a dispenser for use with E-85. An E-85 dispenser manufacturer approached UL in May 2006 with the first request for a certification of an E-85 dispenser. UL quickly identified the need to establish safety requirements for E-85 dispenser products prior to certification so any material compatibility issues could be addressed. The decision to suspend authorization for components quickly followed, so the new requirements could be applied consistently across all related products (i.e., dispensers and components).
To date there have been:
No documented reports of corrosion for UL Listed or Recognized components used with E-85
No field incidents related to UL Listed or Recognized components used with E-85
No reported safety issues associated with Listed or Recognized components used with E-85

Timing Associated with the Development of Safety Requirements
Our technical experts are currently reviewing research to verify material compatibility with E-85. We will co-sponsor an E-85 Compatibility Technical Forum on November 1-2, 2006 with the US Department of Energy to obtain additional advice pursuant to UL establishing performance criteria and offering a Listing program for E-85 dispensers. Timing associated with development of the requirements depends upon the availability of material compatibility research gathered before and during the forum. We will provide an update shortly after the forum concludes.
Please view a list of Commonly Asked Questions.
While there have been no reported safety issues related to UL Listed or Recognized components used with E-85, UL remains committed to developing the appropriate safety requirements that will adequately address safety concerns. If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact one of the following staff members.



UL has never issued a certification for a complete pump only for sub assemblies, and they realized the testing protocols and body of research available at the time they certified the sub assemblies produced sub assemblies that were not tested and certified to a common consistant standard for the effects of E85 and high blends of ethanol. The fact that with over 1000 public fueling outlets and years of field experience, distributing several billion gallons of the fuel each year, has shown NO known problems with the current modified dispensers should say something.

(manufactures were already retrofitting pump systems themselves for E85 usage, to account for the different chemical properties of ethanol, so the E85 dispensers are not identical to the gasoline only version in any case).


Last edited by hotrod; 11-02-2006 at 09:29 PM.
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