Higher-octane gasoline seen as more effective fuel efficiency choice

Increasing the octane standard for gasoline sold in the US would improve overall motor vehicle fuel efficiency more effectively than simply waiting for electric and other alternative-fueled cars and trucks to gain a substantial market share, two reports issued by the Alexandria, Va.-based Fuels Institute argued on Mar. 27.

Mar 27th, 2019

Increasing the octane standard for gasoline sold in the US would improve overall motor vehicle fuel efficiency more effectively than simply waiting for electric and other alternative-fueled cars and trucks to gain a substantial market share, two reports issued by the Alexandria, Va.-based Fuels Institute argued on Mar. 27.

“The science demonstrates that when higher-octane gasoline is used in engines designed for it, those engines can deliver greater fuel efficiency and lower emissions,” said John Eichberger, executive director of the Fuels Institute, which the National Association of Convenience Stores founded as a policy and research organization in 2013.

“These new reports go a long way to help answer questions related to the technology, regulations, and costs to consumers to transition to a higher-octane gasoline standard,” Eichberger said.

He said the reports, “Transitioning the US Gasoline Pool to a Single High-Octane Fuel: A Baseline Analysis” and its companion white paper, “Analysis of the Potential for Increasing Octane in the US Fuel Supply,” analyze the US fuels market’s capacity to deliver higher-octane gasoline to consumers, as well as the regulatory and market dynamics which would be affected by such a transition.

“Our research team found that a high-octane market could be achieved but would likely require a federal mandate to be successful,” Eichberger said.

The report modeled high-octane fuels containing various levels of ethanol and found that ethanol could reduce production costs, but simultaneously introduced compatibility issues within the distribution system that would require substantial investments, he said. And if the fuel is not similar to an existing fuel, the regulatory and transition process could take 20 years or longer, the report suggested.

“These new publications show that transitioning to a high-octane market is feasible, but there are hurdles that must be acknowledged and accommodated,” said Eichberger. “The white paper specifically makes it clear that consumer education prior to initiating the transition is critical because consumers are very sensitive to fuel prices and don’t understand what octane is.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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