EPA approves registration bio-isobutanol fuel additive

Recreational boating industry advocates welcome agency administrator’s announcement.

NATIONWIDE — Recreational boating industry advocates who have been campaigning against the use of certain blends of ethanol in the national gasoline supply earned a bit of a victory on June 12, when Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the registration of bio-isobutanol as a fuel additive.

Registration of the fuel additive, however, does not mean it was approved, certified or endorsed by the EPA or any other branch of the U.S. government.

Groups such as BoatUS and the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) have consistently voiced their respective (and collective) opposition to the inclusion of E15 – gasoline fuel blends with 15 percent ethanol – in the national fuel supply (per the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS).

Recreational boating groups have recently been pushing biobutanol – or bio-isobutanol –as a more viable renewable fuel alternative for boaters. The odds of the fuel coming onto the market and being available for boaters at the pump certainly took a positive step forward when Pruitt approved the first registration of biobutanol as a fuel additive.

Pruitt’s announcement was made during a visit to an EPA field office in Kansas, where he met with the state’s Department of Agriculture head and local farmer.

The EPA administrator said his agency’s approval of a biobutanol registration would enable nationwide growth of biofuels.

The approved registration of biobutanol was specifically for it to be used as a gasoline additive at up to 16 percent volume, according to the EPA, whose staff reviewed an application by Butamax Advanced Biofuels, LLC.

Butamax, a manufacturer of bio-isobutanol, submitted its application to be a registered fuel additive.

EPA staff, according to a released statement, determined Butamax “successfully demonstrated that bio-isobutanol meets all applicable requirements under the Clean Air Act (CAA) for registration under Fuel and Fuel Additive Registration Program.”

“With this registration, bio-isobutanol can be used as a gasoline additive or a ‘drop-in’ fuel. Bio-isobutanol, which is produced from renewable resources like corn, can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and is eligible to generate credits under the RFS program,” EPA staff said in a released statement.

A Federal Register notice on the fuel additive’s possible registration was published in March. The notice’s public comment period was open through April; more than 2,000 comments were received, according to the EPA.

“Most [comments] were positive comments in support of the registration of bio-isobutanol from across multiple stakeholders,” EPA staff said in a released statement. “After reviewing all comments received, EPA has determined that Butamax has demonstrated it has met all the applicable requirements under the CAA and therefore should be registered.”

“We applaud Administrator Pruitt’s approval of bio-isobutanol as a biofuel additive, which will provide consumers a safe, efficient, and environmentally-friendly E15 alternative that is highly compatible with marine products,” NMMA’s President, Thom Dammrich, stated. “This decision will promote an innovative fuel supply, with direct benefits to American boaters and consumers [who] could now have much-needed additional choices at the pump.”

NMMA staff, in a blog post in response to Pruitt’s announcement, stated as many as 95 percent of boats fuel up at retail gas stations, where E15 fuel blends could be found. Boaters, accordingly, run the risk of misfueling, the boating industry advocacy group has regularly contended.

Introducing biobutanol as a fuel additive alternative would help boaters defend against misfueling, NMMA staff continued.

“Misfueling of engines voids warranties, leaving consumers with expensive repair and replacement bills,” the NMMA blog post on Pruitt’s announcement stated.

“Biobutanol is a four-carbon alcohol produced from renewable, plant-derived energy sources in a fermentation process similar to beer and wine production,” the blog post continued. “Biobutanol can be produced using existing ethanol feedstocks, such as corn and sugar beets, or advanced feedstocks (cellulosic biomass) such as crop residues, wood residues, dedicated energy crops, and industrial and other wastes.

E15 causes “severe damage in small engines” found in recreational vessels, according to NMMA.

“Unlike E15, which causes severe damage to small engines like those used in recreational boating, biobutanol delivers more renewable energy content than ethanol while remaining compatible with current vehicles, boats and infrastructure,” NMMA’s blog post stated.

Photo Credit: Parimal M. Rohit

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