Earlier this month an important milestone was hit in the world of ethanol when total locations selling E15 surpassed 200.
The road to the milestone began in October 2013 when the first E15 station was installed in Minnesota. By the end of 2014, there were 17 E15 locations statewide. Totals approximately double each year, until 2017 when stations went from 72 to an expected 225 by year’s end.
The rapid growth has been a joint effort by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA), the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), Minnesota Biofuels Association (MBA), ethanol producers and the American Lung Association (ALA), according to Jon Hunter, director of Clean Air at ALA.
The effort began in earnest in 2013 after grant funding from a broad coalition that included MCGA, MDA, MBA, ethanol producers and ALA was made available to stations interested in being early adopters of E15. The strategy, according to Hunter, was to invest early to overcome initial infrastructure barriers and then let the market set the demand.
“The economics of it being a lower-priced option would create competition and encourage more people to adopt it on their own, and that is exactly what we are seeing today,” Hunter said.
Hunter reported some retailers are seeing as much as a 20-percent increase in sales after adding E15. The lower-priced option on the gas station signs along the road have been effective in pulling in consumers needing to fill up.
E15 infrastructure received another boost after Minnesota was selected as one of 21 states receiving a grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership. The grant was crucial in locations nearly tripling in the last year, raising awareness of E15.
With more than 200 locations, many of which are located in the Twin Cities area, more drivers are going to take notice of the lower-priced option at the pump. The added awareness and subsequent demand should make adding E15 an easy decision for other major retailers, according to Hunter.
“There is a lot of momentum, and I think the realization, especially in Minnesota, that this is the kind of fuel you need to offer to compete,” Hunter said. “That will continue to put pressure on other retailers, and you will see strong pockets of competition.”
MCGA is continuing to work on initiatives that will take advantage of that momentum, said Mitch Coulter, MCGA commodity marketing and biofuels director. Coulter stressed the need to continue work on increasing E15 infrastructure, marketing of the flex fuel and research on its environmental benefits.
“While we are happy with the growth of E15 in Minnesota, we know there is potential for a lot more. With that, we look forward to continuing to work with retailers and partners like ALA to tout the economic and environmental benefit of the homegrown biofuel,” Coulter said.