On the 20th of July, the UK Department for
Transport published its latest consultation:
into the introduction of E10 biofuel across the UK. E10, a petrol blend
consisting of 10% ethanol, is legal for use in the UK, but is not widely
available at filling stations, restricting its penetration into the market.
Currently, petrol in the UK is E5 – a 5% ethanol blend – and available in two
grades, a ‘regular’ grade and a higher-octane ’premium’ or ‘super’ grade. In
the consultation, the DfT concludes that, in order for the Renewable Transport
Fuel Obligation (RTFO) to succeed in the future, E10 will need to become more
widely available. However, there are multiple potential barriers to this.
The first such barrier to E10’s availability is an issue of
distribution: establishing E10’s presence in filling stations around the
country. At filling stations, the fuel is stored in underground tanks, and so
the stations are limited by the amount of storage space they have, and as such,
stations would most likely have to replace one of their existing available
fuels with E10. Most filling stations have two petrol tanks: one for each
aforementioned grade. The government wishes for access to the cheaper,
lower-octane grade of E5 petrol to remain universal, meaning smaller stations
would need to replace the higher-grade petrol with an E10 version. However,
sales of the higher-grade petrol are so low compared to the lower grade, that
this is unlikely to result in a successful and widespread introduction of the
new fuel. As such, part of the government consultation seeks to identify the
most effective way to introduce E10 at the pump: whether it needs to be
restricted to larger filling stations with enough infrastructure, or whether
another option is available.
E10 is not a suitable fuel for all vehicles: it has
potential to cause damage to seals within the fuel system of older vehicles and
cause a build-up of residue in fuel tanks. However, since 2000, almost all
manufactured vehicles have been suitable for use with E10 without concern. The
overwhelming majority – around 95% - of petrol vehicles in the UK fleet are now
warrantied to use E10, however, the government remains concerned with the
vehicles that are not warrantied, as they could potentially suffer if E10
replaces their fuel supply.
The government’s analysis, accompanying the consultation,
highlights that the majority of these older, incompatible vehicles have owners
with an income of less than £20,000 per year, which the DfT cites as reason to
believe that poorer people will be disproportionately affected by introduction
This analysis, however, sits in stark contrast to another report published on the 17th of July by the All Party Parliamentary Group
for British Bioethanol. This analysis into the age of vehicles in the UK and
the impacts of E10 implementation – which included modelling conducted by NNFCC
– found that pre-2000 vehicles are more likely to be registered in the UK’s
more affluent local authorities than its poorer areas due to the relatively
high number of non-essential classic and hobby cars. This may suggest an
underlying trend masked by the DfT’s analysis, which considered only income of
each vehicle’s registered driver, not the household income. The APPG analysis
also finds that there is a greater number of vehicles in the UK that are
optimised for E10 (and thus see a reduction in performance using E5), than
vehicles incompatible with E10, meaning a greater portion of vehicles are
impacted by not introducing E10, than
by introducing it.
The consultation runs until September 2018, with the Call
for Evidence open until 30th August. Members of the industry are
invited to submit responses to the consultation (which can be found here).
Meanwhile, we will eagerly await the outcome of the consultation.