Expanding E15?

Ethanol-gasoline blend available, while Central Iowa has few refueling sites

The only E15 refueling site in Marshall County is at New Century FS in Melbourne. Tama, Grundy and Hardin counties do not appear to have any such refueling sites for the ethanol-gasoline blend, according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association website.

For drivers in Central Iowa, there is no shortage of different fuel types to fill up on at the gas station, whether it’s regular gasoline, E85, E10 or diesel. Another fuel type is also available, and is expanding in parts of the Midwest: E15.

The E15 designation is given to fuel blends of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline. It was approved by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2011 for road vehicles like light trucks, cars and SUVs model years 2001 and newer.

“E15 is an environmentally-friendly, lower-cost fuel that burns cleaner than gasoline,” reads the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) website. But does E15 benefit those in the Marshalltown and Marshall County area?

“I know that we have been trying E15 at different sites throughout our company, and we’re viewing it as a choice,” said Kwik Trip Inc. spokesman Steve Wrobel. “I don’t know specifically if we are planning on putting it in in Marshalltown … we do have locations in Iowa that are putting in the unleaded E15.”

The Wisconsin-based Kwik Trip has three locations in Marshalltown, but none are currently selling E15 fuel.

“It is a product that is a good value for people, those that are looking for it … it is a quality fuel,” Wrobel said, adding while some drivers seek out E15, others may actively avoid it. “It is blended with more ethanol for people who are looking for that.”

He said those who drive “high-performance” vehicles, or want to refuel an outboard motor or lawn mower, avoid E15.

A more common variety of ethanol-gasoline blended fuel is E10, which contains 10 percent ethanol. Another variety is E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline; it can be used in flexible-fuel vehicles.

The only Marshall County gas station currently selling E15 is New Century FS in Melbourne, according to the IRFA, and Hardin, Grundy and Tama counties do not currently have any E15 refueling sites.

Gas station chains like Kum and Go, Kwik Trip and others have been expanding E15 availability in the state in recent years.

While the fuel has support among some consumers and within the ethanol industry, critics say it is too corrosive a fuel. Although it was approved for vehicles made in 2001 and after, car manufacturers General Motors and Ford have certified their vehicles for E15 use in model years 2012 and 2013 and newer, respectively.

“We’re rolling it out,” Wrobel said of the fuel. “It hasn’t made it to Marshalltown yet.”

Several attempts to reach Casey’s General Stores were unsuccessful by press time Friday.