Will RVP Relief Actually Happen This Year?

  • Friday, 11 May 2018 10:21

With all the talk of RVP relief for E15 this week, the big question is whether it will be implemented before the RVP season begins June 1.

Earlier this week, following yet another RFS meeting at the White House, Sen. Chuck Grassley said President Trump has "agreed to allow for the sale of E15 year-round." 

In a separate report, he was quoted as saying EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, affirmed that the agency would go ahead to provide RVP relief for E15.

"Pruitt said without hesitation that we can do it, meaning the EPA can put out the regulation," Grassley said in this report.

That's indeed a monumental shift for Pruitt. On several occasions prior to this week, the EPA administrator has only said the agency was looking into the legality of providing RVP relief for E15. As recently as April 26, he said, "I think that's something that's a legal determination, not a policy determination."

Does this mean the EPA has now completed it's analysis on whether it has the authority to provide an RVP waiver for E15? 

With revelations that his agency has been dolling out RFS waivers to just about any oil refinery that applies, perhaps this was an attempt by Pruitt to change the narrative that his agency has been actively working to undermine the RFS. 

But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. With just 19 days to go before the RVP season hits, Pruitt's EPA has yet to make any announcements that an RVP waiver has been extended to E15. 

Moreover, is RVP relief contingent on agreeing to the RFS-destroying proposal from the oil industry to attach RINs to gallons of ethanol that are exported? 

To recap, the RVP limit (9.0) is set to reduce evaporation of fuel from cars and storage and transfer equipment during the summer months. When gasoline evaporates, it contributes to smog. The PSI for E10 increases by 1 during the summer months but Congress-imposed an RVP waiver for E10. According to the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the RVP for E15 is indistinguishable from E10. As such, there are no logical reasons a RVP waiver cannot be extended to E15.

It's also important to note than ethanol has a lower RVP than gasoline and that the PSI in E10 only increase because of the blending of ethanol and gasoline and the RVP of the gasoline blendstock used. If a gasoline blendstock with a lower PSI is used, the RVP becomes a non-issue but that's not always readily available. 

There are 271 stations in Minnesota that offer E15. But because of the RVP rule, these stations are not allowed to sell E15 from June 1 to Sept 15. Last year, E15 sales in Minnesota totaled 19.05 million gallons but would have been higher had there been RVP-relief for E15 in the summer months. 

According the the Minnesota Department of Commerce, E15 sales dropped by some 60 percent during those months because of the ban. That there were any sales at all had to do with the fact that many stations relabeled E15 as a flex fuel during the RVP season (flex fuels aren't subjected to an RVP ban). 

As mentioned above, the clock is ticking and retailers in Minnesota (and the rest of the country) are still very much in the dark over whether they will be able to sell E15 to all consumers this summer.

If there's RVP relief for E15 this summer, we need to know now.