By George Thompson, Reporter and Farmer
By November, regular unleaded 87 octane gasoline won’t exist in South Dakota.
Federal rules mandate that it be mixed with ethanol, and some in the petroleum industry think that may bring the price per gallon down with the new blend.
Last week two fuel pipelines which supply the region began phasing out 87 octane unleaded gasoline for 84 octane gasoline, which must be mixed with 10 percent ethanol to make it 87 octane oxygenated gasoline under the Renewable Fuels Standard passed by Congress in 2005.
Each year, the quantity of renewable fuel required has gone up with a large increase happening now as about six states in the region switch over.
Dana Miller, manager of the Webster Casey’s General Store, said he was notified the change would take place this week. When the new fuel comes, he won’t have to recalibrate the blender pumps. The most commonly sold fuel at the station is E10 because it’s the cheapest fuel available.
Matt Amdahl, of Pike’s Clark, said his supplier notified him last winter about the changeover. Amdahl still had about 5,500 gallons of unleaded in his tanks as of last week and suspects it will be his last load. Once he runs out, he will have two nozzles of E10 available at the pumps.
Tom Harrington, owner of HR One Stop, is still selling unleaded but said his Sioux Falls supplier notified him several weeks ago by letter that the change could take place. However, Harrington hasn’t heard any updates yet.
A Sioux Valley (Cenex) spokesperson said the same thing. The company has yet to make a switch and is waiting to hear what its next move will be.
Dan Kjos, of Community Oil in Roslyn, said his plan is to switch his unleaded pump to premium once it’s empty. He says his pumps won’t require any recalibration and noted E10 and E30 remain his two top selling blends.
The E10 fuel is cheaper because of the ethanol subsidy in South Dakota, but the industry thinks new 87 octane gas should be cheaper once the switch happens, however; none of the stations contacted knew what the price differential would be at this point.
By November, the only gas available that isn’t mixed with at E10 will be 91 octane premium unleaded.
Most vehicles built after 1980 are warranted by the manufacturer to burn E10.
Local car dealerships have varying opinions about the elimination of unleaded gas.
Josh Atherton, a service manager at Northland Auto, thinks the new blend could cause problems in some older vehicles and even some later models that are E10 compatible but don’t recommend burning it.
Atherton says he’s seen instances where the computer chip sets the fuel too lean causing the engine to vapor lock. He said this typically happens during prolonged hot spells.
Dave Hahler, owner of Dave Hahler Automotive, doesn’t anticipate many problems, noting he fuels both his new and used inventory with ethanol.
Manufacturers of some boat motors, motorcycles and recreational vehicles built before 1996 recommend using a premium grade fuel stabilizer to avoid fuel separation, absorb excess water, increase fuel economy and clean the fuel tank to avoid sediment buildup that can clog fuel filters.
Manufacturers of small engines used in chain saws and lawnmowers now build their engines E10 compatible.