Study Finds Refiners Can Increase Octane Without Ethanol

Cindy Zimmerman 2 Comments

A new Energy Information Administration (EIA) study has found that U.S. petroleum refineries would be able to produce gasoline with a higher minimum octane rating (95 Research Octane Number, or “RON”) beginning in 2022 without using more ethanol meet such an octane standard.

The study, conducted by oil industry consulting firm Baker & O’Brien, determined “refiners would simply increase reformer severity to produce higher octane gasoline blendstock, which would then be blended with 10% ethanol…to meet the minimum 95 RON gasoline requirement.”

“This study confirms that a 95 RON requirement by itself would do nothing to expand the market for ethanol, even though ethanol will continue to reign as the cheapest and cleanest source of octane available on the market,” said Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Geoff Cooper said. “Rather than using ethanol to boost octane, refiners would choose to run their reformers more intensively to increase production of higher octane hydrocarbons, many of which are highly toxic and would worsen air quality. However, if implemented alongside of—not in lieu of—the Renewable Fuel Standard, a 95 RON requirement could provide new market opportunities for America’s ethanol producers and farmers, as refiners would be compelled to do the right thing and choose ethanol as the primary means of raising octane levels. Still, to truly deliver the efficiency gains and emissions reductions needed in the future, a high octane, low carbon fuel with 98-100 RON would be a much better option.”

Read more from RFA.

Energy, Ethanol, Ethanol News, Octane, RFA

Comments 2

  1. From just my reading of this article, I don’t know why anyone would pay for the Baker & O’Brien study. It’s almost always been known that gasoline could be so highly refined that it would not require any type of anti-knock additive. The problem has always been, at what cost? And I use the word cost both literally and figuratively.

    The highly refined price at the pump makes it too expensive for U.S. consumers, and the health implications of burning this fuel is too dangerous.

    The best solution is to simply ban gasoline as an engine fuel. Only build ethanol-optimized internal combustion engines, and convert all existing ICE vehicles to be able to run on E85 and higher.

    1. You are correct and special attention needs to be paid to use of toxic aromatics as octane boosters. When tetraethyl lead was fazed out we merely replaced on toxin with another. Anti backslide rules are in the 1992 amendments but EPA seems to not take these health concerns seriously. We need some hydrocarbon fuels and there is some question if E85 makes any sense as a blend. Up to E40 is certainly good. Anything over E60 would start to raise fuel costs. The point of this ‘study’ is to clarify that in 4 years there is the capacity to meet a 95 RON standard. Doing it in 4 years with ethanol is questionable. The problem is that the parameters are wrong. The target should be 98 – 100 RON using only ethanol and reducing the existing aromatic content. To reach a 60 billion ethanol production rate in a reasonable time, making ethanol from natural gas would make sense. This could be done in conjunction with increasing use of renewable fuels including drop-in alkanes from existing refineries.

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