The U.S. Department of Agriculture has closed its application period for the latest round of the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP), which provides $100 million in grants to pay up to 50 percent of the cost of equipment for station owners to add or upgrade equipment and sell higher ethanol blends like E15 and E85. This round of funding is separate from the $500 million provided in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Chief Marketing Officer Ron Lamberty assisted fuel retailers throughout this latest application window and is providing feedback on new funds designated for this purpose under the IRA. Lamberty issued the following statement following the closure of the application period:

“ACE is happy to have assisted marketers who applied for grants for nearly a hundred new retail locations as well as some blending facilities, and we appreciate USDA HBIIP Program Manager Jeff Carpenter’s efforts to make the program more accessible to retailers, by reaching out to ACE and others early in the process and allowing us to provide our observations and input we received from our industry partners in previous rounds of the program.

“Over the summer and fall, ACE promoted USDA’s biofuel infrastructure program through our website, advertising in c-store industry publications, and by connecting with retailers in person at trade shows and a workshop we hosted featuring Carpenter and some top fuel marketers. We also made it easier for retailers to find information online with a new portal on to sign up for updates, and submit questions and concerns surrounding the program, and we updated the short, fuel marketer-focused videos featuring Jeff (Carpenter) and breaking down the daunting HBIIP application process in to smaller pieces we hope are easier to follow and complete.

“This program helps make lower carbon ethanol blends available in more locations to help meet greenhouse gas reduction goals, and ACE looks forward to providing input next week on how to improve future rounds of funding, including making funds more accessible to small marketers. As this HBIIP deadline approached, we heard from prospective high-blend retailers waiting to apply for upcoming IRA funds, citing 75 percent cost share versus HBIIP’s 50 percent. Marketers know 75 percent is only an option, but 50 percent max is a certainty this round. If HBIIP applications end up being down, it’s an indication of increased interest in the next round, not decreased interest in this one.”

ACE continues to provide the Flex Check E15 equipment compatibility tool as a resource station owners can use to determine whether their existing fuel infrastructure can already store and sell E15 (and possibly higher blends) without needing new equipment or federal grants. This year the tool was accessed by thousands of retailers who entered information about their pumps, tanks, dispensers and other equipment, to find out if they could sell E15 using existing infrastructure. Many came directly from a link on EPA’s Emerging Fuels and Underground Storage Tanks page, which lists Flex Check as a “resource for determining equipment compatibility and meeting federal requirements for storing biofuels.”