Confusion Over E85 Pump Certification

Cindy Zimmerman

E85 Reports from the Detroit Free Press about E85 pumps losing their safety rating from Underwriters Laboratory are causing quite a bit of confusion in the ethanol world.

Justin Hyde of the Free Press Washington Bureau followed up his first report yesterday with another one today giving further information, as well as an article in USA Today.

The initial report had no comment from UL, the nation’s largest product safety testing group, but today’s story quotes UL’s manager of consumer affairs John Drengenberg and says it was on October 5 that “the UL said it was suspending its listings for any fuel system that handles E85, a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline.”

The articles claim this “means that most of the roughly 1,000 stations that carry it likely violate fire codes. It also means that in most states, stations that want to install E85 pumps will need waivers from local or state fire marshals.”

Two stations in Columbus, Ohio have been closed so far, but each state has its own jurisdiction regarding safety approval ratings.

The story quotes Michelle Kautz, a spokeswoman for the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, as saying stores that offer E85, a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, are “allowed to sell it until they’re told not to.”

Although there is no official information about the UL decision on the company’s website, UL reportedly said in a statement that it had no reports of problems with E85 systems, but withdrew its certification due to concerns about how ethanol can corrode parts of the fueling system. The issue concerns pumps that have been converted from regular gasoline with up to 15 percent ethanol additive, to up to 85 percent ethanol.

UL is reportedly moving quickly to examine the pumps for ethanol use and set new standards.