July 14, 2021
Are you ready for the upcoming E10 grade change?
In September of this year, the UK will transition from the current E5 unleaded “premium” fuel grade to a new E10 standard, which contains up to 10% renewable ethanol compared with the standard 5% in E5. Introduced to help to tackle climate change, this new blend will reduce CO2 emissions and is compatible with approximately 95% of petrol-powered vehicles on the road today. But what impact will this new grade have on fuel retailers?
First, let’s talk about E10.
E10 petrol is not new to the fuel retail market. It’s already being used widely around the world and has been the reference fuel against which new vehicles are tested for emissions output since 2016. But, given the increasing pressure on the UK government to tackle climate change, E10 will become the standard premium grade on all UK fuel sites. This higher ethanol content fuel means less fossil fuel is needed to power vehicles, which therefore reduces the negative environmental impact that results from its combustion. Whilst E5 fuel grades will still be sold as “super” fuels in order to support older vehicles that cannot run on E10, the introduction of this new legislation on UK forecourts later in the year will likely result in taking the equivalent of 350,000 cars off the road.
As a fuel retailer, what do I need to be aware of?
The majority of forecourts in the UK, according to a 2018 survey conducted by the Department for Transport, are configured to dispense up to two grades of petrol fuel only, meaning the introduction of the E10 blend will require changes to underground storage infrastructure – an exercise that can be both costly and time consuming for fuel retailers (Crown, 2020). As you consider adding E10, it is important to factor in whether you’ll have to close the business whilst any site work is taking place, the impact this downtime will have on your business and the best ways to mitigate the negative consequences of site closures.
Furthermore, older sites that are more likely to operate with older equipment, such as ageing fuel tanks, are at a greater risk from the corrosive effects of E10, which can damage seals, plastics and metals (RAC, 2021). Ethanol itself is not particularly corrosive; however, when combined with water that can sometimes be present inside fuel tanks, the two liquids react to produce a bacteria called acetobacter, which excretes acetic acid, the latter of which is highly corrosive and places deteriorating or ageing site equipment at higher risk (Jackson, 2013). Blake, technical manager at the PRA, backs this up, noting there is evidence that the bio elements being added to fuel have, in some cases, accelerated the failures through internal corrosion of both tanks and pipework (Forecourt Trader, 2019).
What actions should I take?
Before making the change from E5 to E10, you should take the opportunity to have your site infrastructure fully analysed. For example, at Dover Fueling Solutions, on-site service technicians are readily available to complete proactive maintenance as part of a routine site service – including tests that check the integrity of the fuel tank underground – so you can rest assured your equipment is fit to handle the potential destructive effects of the newer, more concentrated fuel. Technicians are also able to perform other standard equipment tests at the same time, such as pump measure checks, which are incidentally one of the most common causes of undetected fuel loss.
Once you switch to E10, it is recommended you invest in a fuel monitoring service that continuously scans your site or network for signs of fuel leaks. Such services are also able to detect other issues, such as water ingress, which can be extremely damaging to motor vehicles if left undetected and may result in significant damage to your business reputation, as well as being costly to rectify. There are many monitoring services on the market today, so choose wisely.
You might want to ask key questions like:
• Can the provider give a full breakdown of what losses are occurring and how much it is costing me?
• Am I expected to do a lot of data submission and delivery chasing work myself, or can the provider do this work for me?
• Does the provider have a good reputation in the marketplace, and are they recognised as being the very best in class?
• Does the provider work with every different type of equipment on my forecourt, or do they only work with certain bits of equipment?
• If there is an action I need to take, will the provider guide me through this and reduce the workload I need to manage?
Dover Fueling Solutions offers a comprehensive, flexible fuel monitoring service that can be scaled depending on the needs of the retailer. This service includes analyst-led investigation management in the result of any issues on site and access to an online reporting suite, which means your site data is always readily available to view. It also offers a wide range of site services, including full site and equipment audits.
Lastly, with just a few months to go until the change is implemented, be sure to have your E10 supplier lined up and, if you have not yet booked in any necessary site work, to do so quickly so that you are fully prepared come September.
The Department for Transport. “E10 Petrol and Consumer Protection: Response to 2018 Call for Evidence.” Crown, 2020.
“Going Underground.” Forecourt Trader, 11 Jan. 2019, forecourttrader.co.uk/news/going-underground/642930.article.
Jackson, Tom. “E-10 Alive: The Corrosive Damage Ethanol Gasoline Does to Your Fuel Pump.” Equipment World, 5 Aug. 2013, www.equipmentworld.com/equipment/article/14952223/e-10-alive-the-corrosive-damage-ethanol-gasoline-does-to-your-fuel-pump.
RAC Drive. “What Is E10 Fuel and How Will It Affect You?” RAC, 6 May 2021, www.rac.co.uk/drive/advice/emissions/what-is-e10-fuel-and-how-could-it-affect-you/.