Skip to comments.Report: E15 causes some carsí fuel systems to fail
Posted on 01/29/2013 12:45:54 PM PST by thackney
Automobile manufacturers and the oil industry on Tuesday released the results of laboratory tests showing that gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol caused fuel pumps and parts to fail, raising the specter of faulty check engine light readings and more frequent breakdowns for cars that use the blend.
The American Petroleum Institute cast the report by the non-profit Coordinating Research Council as fresh evidence that the Environmental Protection Agency should rescind its 2010 decision to approve the sale of the so-called E15″ blend for 2001 and newer automobiles. A previous study by the Coordinating Research Council, which counts API as a sustaining member, linked engine durability problems to E15.
These results, when coupled with the CRC engine durability study . . . show millions upon millions of consumer vehicles could be adversely impacted with E15, said Bob Greco, APIs downstream group director. The more we study, unfortunately, the more issues we uncover.
But ethanol backers swiftly criticized the new studys design, calling it flawed for relying on car components tested in isolation with E15 as well as an aggressive E15 blend that included more water and acid than what most motorists actually would pump from filling stations.
Tom Buis, the CEO of Growth Energy, said the research could at best be described as incomplete and cherry picking.
This is a classic example of he who pays the piper calls the tune, Buis said. Oil companies are desperate to prevent the use of higher blends of renewable fuels (and) have erected every regulatory and legal roadblock imaginable to prevent our nation from reducing our dependence on oil.
Read more: Clashes over ethanol in gasoline intensify
The CRC research focused on fuel pumps and fuel level senders, which send signals about the amount of fuel in vehicles to fuel gauges and onboard diagnostic systems.
Fuel pumps were evaluated two ways: first with eight periodic flow tests on a pump soaked in E15 over 12 weeks, and second, by investigating potential failure mechanisms under 3,000 hours of continuous operation, representing about 90,000 miles of travel. Fuel level senders were tested by cycling the powered devices in test fuel.
One tested pump seized when used with E15 and a more aggressive blend of the fuel, though it did not fail when the test was replicated with fuels containing no ethanol or a 10 percent blend. Other pump designs showed statistically significant flow loss with both E15 variants. The fuel level sender tests revealed three instances of significant signal defects.
According to CRC: This study . . . has found that some fuel systems in modern vehicles survive testing in mid-blend ethanol fuels, while others will experience complete failures that would prevent operation.
Mike Leister, a senior fuels policy director at Marathon Petroleum, and a member of CRCs board, said the tests showed E15 caused signals from fuel level senders to become disrupted or garbled, with the result that your tank can appear to be empty when its full or it can appear to be full when its empty.
Because onboard diagnostic systems use information from the fuel level sensors, faulty data could suggest a leak and trigger a check engine light.
Greco said the end result of E15 damage to fuel systems could be anything from customer inconvenience to a complete fuel pump failure where an engine stops.
The U.S. oil industry has been waging a long fight against E15 and the 8-year-old biofuels mandate that underpins it. The renewable fuel standard requires refiners to blend steadily increasing amounts of ethanol and other alternatives into the nations transportation fuel supply, up to 36 billion gallons in 2022.
API, the industrys leading trade group, has argued that the entire mandate should be tossed out, especially given the so-called blend wall: the practical limit on how much biofuel can be blended into the nations gasoline, given the relative rarity of E15 blends approved for new vehicles and the limit on 10 percent ethanol in the most commonly available gasoline.
Kristy Moore, vice president for technical services with the Renewable Fuels Association, said the CRC report has zero real world correlation. Among other problems, she said, the study ignored their own earlier 2009 findings that sulphur in gasoline not ethanol is a leading cause of fuel system problems, including malfunctions that cause incorrect gauge readings.
The analysis also used equipment from vehicles, at least three of which may have been subject to recalls for fuel system problems, Moore said. The study used parts from the 2007 Nissan Altima, 2001 Chevrolet Cavalier, 2004 Ford Focus, 2003 Nissan Maxima and the 2004 Ford Ranger. The report does not identify precisely which car parts failed, but the overlap suggests some of those devices were already predisposed to problems.
Bob Reynolds, president of Downstream Alternatives, questioned whether the test E15 blend included the same corrosion inhibitors that are added to the gasoline for commercial sale.
And given the selection of the vehicles used in the test, Reynolds said, the results cant fairly be extrapolated for all of the cars on the road today.
You cant test a few systems . . . and try to scare the owners of the 270 million vehicles on the road today, about 68 percent of which are approved for (E15), Reynolds said.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit rejected a challenge to the EPAs decision to approve the E15 blend, after concluding that the API and food groups behind the suit did not have legal standing to press the case. The court specifically denied a request that it reconsider its 2-1 August decision that the trade groups could not prove they had suffered specific damage from the E15 approval.
Greco said API may seek to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.
API mulls taking E15 legal challenge to US Supreme Court
By Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor
The American Petroleum Institute is considering taking its legal challenge of the US Environmental Protection Agencys introduction of gasoline with a 15% ethanol blend into the marketplace to the US Supreme Court, an API official said.
API and other organizations involved in the challenge would have to file a motion for consideration with the high court by April for the case to possibly be considered this year, said Bob Greco, API downstream and industry operations director. He spoke as the Coordinating Research Council released a new report suggesting widespread use of E15 could seriously damage vehicles fuel pumps and maintenance monitoring systems.
E15 could cause erratic and misleading fuel gauge readings or cause faulty check engine light illuminations, Greco told reporters during a Jan. 29 teleconference. It also could cause critical components to break and stop fuel flow to the engine. Failure of these components could result in breakdowns that leave consumers stranded on busy roads and highways.
A second teleconference participant, Mike Leister, principal engineer in Marathon Petroleum Corp.s light products supply, distribution, and planning department, added, We tested fuel pumps and fuel level sensing components, devices that send signals of problems to a cars onboard diagnostic system or dashboard. About half didnt make it through the tests.
Greco said EPA began introducing E15 into the marketplace before CRC, a research organization supported by API and seven US and non-US automakers, could complete its tests. The latest report follows one that CRC issued in May demonstrating E15 could damage valve and valve seat engine parts in some tested vehicles, which included a number of common brands.
CRCs tests are more comprehensive than US Department of Energy tests EPA cited to justify its E15 actions, Greco said. The more we study, the more problems we uncover, he observed.
E15s potential problems are among many indications that the 113th Congress should repeal the federal Renewable Fuel Standard mandated under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, according to Greco.
The world has changed since it was enacted, he explained. Consumer demand for fuels has dropped, while domestic supplies of crude oil have grown dramatically because of the revolution in shale oil and natural gas development in the US. This has reduced imports, one of the stated purposes of the RFS.
Seeking repeal of the RFS is not an indictment of renewable fuels, he added. Ethanol is well established and has desirable blending properties, so there are reasons why Americas refiners would use it with or without the law, Greco said.
More members of Congress might be amenable since governors and other lawmakers raised concerns about expanding fuel use of ethanol from corn during 2012s heavy drought, he suggested. We at API are focusing on how it affects our industry and the problems it causes, including fraudulent [bio-diesel research identification numbers] and the ethanol blend wall were confronting, Greco said.
So when mandating 10% in gasoline didn’t work, they agitated to mandate 15%, which will be a disaster, but they will not stop at that - next it’ll be 20%.
When the 10% stuff came out it ruined 5 fuel pumps in my vehicles. Destroyed a chainsaw and a weedeater. The E15 will kill anything older than 2010 model year.
And that 10% alcohol results in a real world fuel mileage reduction of 15 to 20% in my vehicles.
You won’t find gas without ethanol in it on the Rockies in Colorado: bipartisan enviro-crazy land.
My dad owns a small engine repair business. The last few years I would bet 30% of his work can be directly attributed to ethanol in gas. I was in his shop one afternoon this summer and watched him “fix” two chainsaws and a weedeater by simply flushing the gas in them and pumping new gas through the system and then starting them. $30 bucks a pop (and he’s cheap.) Those were the lucky customers. Most people had their carburetors ruined by the ethanol and would be paying for a carb rebuild or buying a new machine.
I spoke a mechanic and they said the alcohol is terrible in fuel injection. If you let a car sit the alcohol pulls any water out of the gas and will rust the heck out of your injectors.
It is over 100 miles from my home to the closest station without ethanol.
Just bought a new Craftsman 7.5hp lawnmower. Manual says it’s ok for 10% crap gas. Popular Mechanics rated it #1.
It replaced my 30+ y/o 4hp snapper that I just got tired of fixing.
Talk about awesome lawnmower!
I’ll have to remember that — good tip!
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