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Because The Opportunity Is Clear

Today’s petroleum marketers – who find themselves at the center of rising costs and consumers calling for change – can benefit from adding ethanol at their stations in two innovative ways: installing blender pumps and retailing mid-level ethanol blends (MLEBs), which are ethanol blends beyond 10%.

Used for years to blend and dispense unleaded and premium to give customers several octane choices, blender pumps are now finding a home in the retailing of ethanol fuels, providing stations the unique opportunity to offer mid-level blends between E10 and E85 or to simply blend their own ethanol to create E10 and/or E85. The stations benefit from the blending economics of higher-volume ethanol sales, and their customers enjoy this new array of fuel choices at the pump.

In this new application, blender pumps typically utilize two underground tanks, one containing unleaded gasoline and the other containing E85. In addition to offering more traditional fuels such as unleaded, E10, and E85, the fuel pump can also dispense a variety of mid-level ethanol blends – often E20, E30, and E40 – which are created by mixing the appropriate percentages of fuel from each underground tank. In this new application, blender pumps typically utilize two underground tanks, one containing unleaded gasoline and the other containing E85. In addition to offering more traditional fuels such as unleaded, E10, and E85, the fuel pump can also dispense a variety of mid-level ethanol blends – often E20, E30, and E40 – which are created by mixing the appropriate percentages of fuel from each underground tank.

Hundreds of gas stations have taken this unique approach to retailing ethanol fuel. Although not highly publicized, blender pumps have been offering ethanol fuel blends for years in such places as Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota.

In South Dakota, for example, blender pumps were put into service during the spring of 2006 in the northeastern communities of Britton and Watertown and led to growing awareness in nearby communities for the value of providing consumers a choice of fueling options. Bruce Vollan of Midway Service in Baltic, SD, who installed blenders in 2008 said, “We nearly doubled our business in the first year after installing blender pumps and offering more ethanol choices to our customers.” Vollan said his only regret “is that we didn’t install them sooner.”

With just one piece of equipment, a petroleum marketer can offer a variety of new fuels to customers and these customers can select their preferred formulation with just the touch of a button. Even if a station doesn’t wish to begin retailing these new ethanol fuels immediately, the infrastructure is in place for the future – which, by all signs, is certain to include ethanol blends beyond E10.

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