Storage & Dispensing

The technology for storing and dispensing gasoline can be applied to alcohol fuels such as E85 because alcohols and alcohol blends, like gasoline, are liquid fuels at ambient pressures and temperatures. However, only E85-compatible materials should be used in the storage and dispensing systems. Most operating problems with ethanol-fueled vehicles have been traced to contaminated fuel. Consequently, choosing the right materials for fuel storage and dispensing systems and following proper fuel handling procedures are crucial for successfully operating ethanol-fueled vehicles. Although material research and testing is expected to continue, the parts and materials discussed in this guidebook have performed well with E85. They can be obtained from your usual supplier.

Using Existing Fueling Systems
In many cases, existing gasoline, diesel, or other hydrocarbon fueling systems may also be used to store and dispense fuel ethanol. Most metal underground storage tanks that meet EPA December 1998 codes, can be used to store E85.Many underground fiberglass tanks that meet EPA standards may also be used to store E85. However, fiberglass storage tanks manufactured prior to 1992,MAY NOT be able to handle E85. If you wish to use an existing fiberglass underground storage tank that was manufactured prior to 1992 to store E85, contact the NEVC for additional information. If an existing underground storage tank will be used to store E85 and if the tank is either metal or fiberglass that is certified for E85, the following steps should be taken.

Cleaning Tanks
If another type of fuel was stored in the tank that will be used for the E85, it must be cleaned because storing gasoline underground causes some particulates to settle out and form a sludge. Introducing alcohol into these tanks will place this sludge into suspension and will lead to serious problems with vehicle driveability. There are several methods for cleaning sludge from the bottom of a tank. Each method must be completed by a certified and bonded company familiar with cleaning petroleum storage tanks.

1. Use a "filter agitator" device. This method is similar to cleaning a swimming pool. The filter agitator is lowered into the tank and moves the product to allow a filter to catch the suspended particulates.

2. Physically enter the tank and steam clean the sludge.

3. Use a robotic cannon to liquefy the sludge. After being liquefied, the sludge is pumped out of the tank and disposed of at an approved site. This method of removal may occasionally harm the walls of the tank, making it unfit for fuel storage.

4. Place a chemical cleaner in the tank to clean the walls. The remaining particulates may then be pumped out of the tank and disposed of. E85. Generally, aboveground storage tanks are smaller than underground storage tanks and are typically installed in capacities of 1000 to 2000 gallons. Tanks may be constructed of stainless steel, cold-finished steel, or fiberglass. The use of plated metal tanks is generally not recommended.

Companies that produce E85-compatible pump dispensers include Bennett Pump Company and Tokheim Corporation. The E85 dispenser must use iron, unplated steel, or stainless steel in the fuel path. In the case of vane-type pumps, avoid impellers made from soft metals (zinc, brass, lead, aluminum). Steel or an engineering polymer with a high chemical resistance will give excellent results.

General Dispensing Equipment
Dispenser hoses, nozzles, and fitting connectors are the same for aboveground and underground fuel storage systems. The items common to both systems are discussed in this section. Parts that differ for aboveground and underground installations are discussed in the sections that follow. Again, your supplier can help you obtain E85- compatible parts and equipment. Avoid components made from zinc, brass, lead, aluminum, or other soft metals. The ethanol fuel may cause leaching from such soft metals, which may contaminate the vehicle's fuel system and could result in poor vehicle performance.

In-Line Filters
A 1-micron, in-line filter is recommended for fuel ethanol dispensing equipment. This size filter will trap most of the debris and impurities that might be present in the storage tank and prevent them from being transferred to the vehicle during refueling. A number of companies produce 1-micron E85-compatible fueling filters. Check the NEVC Web site for the most current information.

Dispenser Hoses
The type of hose used for dispensing E85 depends on the type of vapor recovery system in the geographic area. Stage II Vapor Recovery systems require different fueling hose systems than do areas with Stage I only systems. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company is one reliable manufacturer for this item. When specifying materials for your refueling facility, contact equipment vendors for the latest information and use the components with the highest resistance to deterioration from continuous contact with fuel alcohols. In some cases, equipment specified for use with fuel methanol will be available. Because fuel methanol is even more corrosive than fuel ethanol, components and materials certified for fuel methanol use will almost always be acceptable for fuel ethanol use.

Aluminum nozzles should not be used with E85, and nozzles made from any aluminum alloy must be used with caution. A nickel-plated nozzle is the best choice. A few companies that manufacture nozzles are Emco Wheaten Retail Corporation, Modern Welding Company Subsidiaries, and Newberry Tanks and Equipment, Inc.

Fittings and Connectors
All fittings, connectors, and adapters that will be in contact with the fuel blend should be made of materials like stainless steel (best choice), black iron, or bronze to avoid degradation. If aluminum or brass fittings are used, they must be nickel plated to avoid any contact between the bare metal and the fuel ethanol.

The best choice for underground piping is nonmetallic corrosion free pipe. Schedule 40 black iron pipe and galvanized pipe may be used, but will require corrosion protection to meet EPA requirements. You may purchase piping from a number of manufacturers such as Advanced Polymer Technology (APT), Ameron International, and Environ Products Inc. Do not use conventional zinc-plated steel piping for fuel ethanol. Pipe thread sealant, when needed, must be Teflon tape or Teflonbased pipe-thread compound. If secondary piping is needed, thermoset reinforced fiberglass or thermoplastic double-wall piping should be used.

 Ethanol Compatibility Statements

Below are links from the Fiberglass Tank Institute and the Steel Tank Institute where they explain that the majority of tanks and piping are compatible with all ethanol blends.

Steel Tank Institute Ethanol Compatibility Statement


January 2011 Steel Tank Institute Statement re: TN Tank Law  


Fiberglass Tank Institute - Pipe and Tank Compatibility


For dispenser labels for ethanol blends, please visit for more information.

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