July 7, 2011 | Vol. 61, No. 14
|Dear PEI Member:
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published final guidance in the July 5 Federal Register for owners and operators of underground storage tanks (USTs) storing gasoline blends containing more than 10 percent ethanol and diesel blends containing more than 20 percent biodiesel. EPA issued a prepublication version of the rule June 23 (see June 30 TL).
Federal law―specifically 40 CFR §280.32―requires UST systems to be compatible with the substance stored. EPA anticipates some tank owners may choose to store blends of ethanol higher than E10 in their legacy UST systems when these fuels―particularly E15―become available. Since the chemical and physical properties of ethanol and biodiesel can be more degrading to certain UST system materials than petroleum alone (E0 to E10), EPA's Office of Underground Storage Tanks (OUST) published draft guidance last year to help tank owners comply with the federal compatibility requirement. The action taken by EPA in the July 5 Federal Register finalizes that guidance.
To whom does the guidance apply? 40 CFR Part 280―and therefore this guidance―applies in Indian country and in states and territories (referred to as states hereafter) that do not have state program approval (SPA). EPA explains that although the guidance is not binding on SPA states with approved UST programs, those states may find the guidance relevant and useful because SPA states have a compatibility requirement that is similar to the federal compatibility requirement. In order for EPA to approve a state's program, that state's regulations must be at least as stringent as the federal UST regulations.
UST system components covered. For the purpose of this guidance, EPA considers the following components to be critical for demonstrating compatibility:
EPA did not include vapor recovery equipment because these components do not routinely contain liquid product. And although many commenters to the proposed guidance strongly recommended EPA include dispensers on the list, EPA does not regulate aboveground equipment, such as dispensers, under 40 CFR Part 280.
For newly installed equipment comprised of multiple individual components such as submersible turbine pump assemblies, UST system owners and operators may obtain a certification from the equipment manufacturer (see discussion that follows) documenting compatibility for the entire assembly. If the equipment requires maintenance―and components of that equipment (for example, seals and gaskets) are subsequently added or replaced―manufacturer approval of the overall component is not sufficient to demonstrate compatibility. EPA points out that "it is important for tank owners to use compatible replacement parts."
Options for Meeting the Compatibility Requirement. Acceptable methods for owners and operators of UST systems to demonstrate compatibility under 40 CFR §280.32 are:
EPA Publishes UST Guidance
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EPA's guidance says that if the UST owner and operator is not able to demonstrate that the UST system is made of materials that are compatible with the biofuel blend stored, according to 40 CFR §280.32, the UST owner and operator may not use the system to store those fuels.Impact on PEI members. Many UST system components in use today, with the exception of certain tanks and piping, have not been tested by UL or any other nationally recognized, independent testing lab for compatibility with ethanol blends greater than 10 percent. In addition, EPA is not aware of any nationally recognized, independent testing lab that has performed testing on UST system components with biodiesel-blended fuels. As a result, tank owners and operators wishing to store ethanol blends greater than 10 percent―and biodiesel blends greater than B20―in any of the approximately 600,000 UST systems in use in the United States will likely turn to the manufacturers of the equipment to see if their legacy equipment is compatible with what they want to store in it.
EPA concluded "that equipment manufacturers are uniquely suited to attest to the compatibility of their products and have an incentive to make truthful claims regarding use of their equipment with biofuel blends." Further, EPA explained, "the manufacturer option is critical for components that do not have a certification or listing by a nationally recognized, independent testing laboratory."
Commenters to the proposed guidance were concerned because instances could occur in which a certification or listing from a nationally recognized testing lab was not available at the time of manufacture, and the manufacturer either is no longer in business or is unwilling to certify that the component is compatible. EPA recognized this possibility, but concluded that it "can not accommodate this situation while minimizing the risk to the environment." Therefore, under this guidance, "if tank owners are not able to demonstrate compatibility, they would not be able to store ethanol blends greater than 10 percent or biodiesel blends greater than 20 percent in the UST system."
Once E15 is permitted for sale, we believe that manufacturers of the UST components identified by EPA in the guidance will be asked by tank owners, equipment distributors and UST system installers for an affirmative statement of approval for the equipment manufactured years ago. In some cases the statement may be simply confirming a UL listing. In other cases, manufacturers will provide approvals in the form required by EPA. And, as noted above, in some instances manufacturers will simply not be able to provide the approvals required to store the biofuel.
It occurs to us that it might be helpful if the industry had one place to go to access manufacturers' equipment approvals for biofuels. PEI's website could be that place. Let me (firstname.lastname@example.org) know what you think about this idea.
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"The state used a federal grant to convert some of the vehicles and to install 115 refueling facilities. Indiana now has the nation's largest public statewide propane fueling network, says spokesman Will Wingfield. Indiana also is purchasing 19 new snowplows that will run on compressed natural gas; initially, they will be used primarily in the Indianapolis area. Those vehicles will net the state a savings of up to $100,000 a year, Wingfield says."―USA Today, June 27, 2011.
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The TulsaLetter (ISSN 0193-9467) is published two or three times each month by the Petroleum Equipment Institute. Robert N. Renkes, Executive Vice President, Editor. Opinions expressed are the opinions of the Editor. Basic circulation confined to PEI members.