France struggles to meet 10% ethanol deadlines

The introduction in all service stations in France of the new "green" unleaded gasoline, incorporating 10% ethanol instead of the current 5%, will take longer than initially expected.

Doris Leblond
OGJ Correspondent

PARIS, Mar. 25 -- The introduction in all service stations in France of the new "green" unleaded gasoline, incorporating 10% ethanol instead of the current 5%, will take longer than initially expected.

However, Jean-Louis Schilansky, president of the oil trade group UFIP, told a press conference held Mar. 24 to launch the E10 that 75% of France's service station network should be selling it by yearend.

The pace will be consistent with the logistic and technical problems encountered by oil company operators, independents, and supermarkets. Ethanol must be moved by truck rather than by pipeline; existing oil depots and service station tanks must be adapted to the new unleaded; and service stations must either sacrifice one pump to deliver it or, if a large service station, use one that was used to deliver other unleaded gasolines.

While BP retained its own depots when it sold its Lavera refinery and will be able to have all its service stations ready with E10 by the end of April, Shell has no access to any depots. It sold its three refineries last year and relies on the speed at which the new owners can accommodate its needs.

Total expects to have some 300 service stations delivering E10 the first fortnight in April and will progressively have all of its 4,000 service stations in France ready during the year.

Esso also will gradually have its service stations ready but doesn't know how long it will take to deal with its own technical problems.

All four companies told OGJ they are keen and willing to deliver the "green" unleaded. They could refuse to do so but would have to pay a polluting tax instead.

The E10 can be used only by automobiles sold after 2000 and will only be really profitable for drivers when prices at the pump are higher than they are now. The price difference currently is only 1-2¢/l., if at all, as drivers need more E10 to travel the same distance as vehicles using normal unleaded fuel.

The government's purpose in introducing the E10 at least 5 years ahead of the EU is that is should reduce carbon dioxide emissions in France by 1 million tonnes/year by 2010.

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