By Ed Kammerer, OPW

Operating a fuel site has never been more complicated, with the days when leaded gasoline was the only fuel offered are long past. Today’s list of available motor fuels and additives can most closely resemble the menu at an all-you-can-eat food buffet, rather than something along the lines of “chicken or steak.”

Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL), the nation’s preeminent third-party equipment testing and certification organization, notes on its website that: “As regulations evolve and expand the demand for additional types of fuel, manufacturers and fueling stations will need to stay up-to-date on what requirements they need to comply with and how they can adapt to meet the shifting marketplace demand.”

Fuel site operators now not only need to offer a “bill of fare” that can satisfy the expanding needs of motorists, commercial fleets and government policies, They must also dispense that fuel via compatible systems systems approved by appropriate third-party organizations.

 

Defining The Fuel Landscape

UL has created a “Guide for Automotive Fuel Ratings” to aid fuel site operators in their efforts to deploy hanging hardware. This is a category of fuel site equipment generally consisting of the breakaways, hoses, swivels and nozzles that are situated between the dispenser and the vehicle’s fill pipe—that is approved for use with the fuel being dispensed. This guide has been designed to “support compatibility with many commercially available fuels and blend levels covered by 40 CFR Part 80, ‘Regulation of Fuels and Fuel Additives’.” The hanging hardware must also be approved to meet the strictures of the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) NFPA 30 fire code, which “provides safeguards to reduce the hazards associated with the storage, handling and use of flammable and combustible liquids.”

Currently, UL lists five fuel formula designations that are commonly found at retail fueling locations and are compliant with 40 CFR Part 80, NFPA 30 and meet ASTM International’s standards and limits for fuel specs and blends:

  • D975: diesel fuel with up to 5% biodiesel (B5)
  • D7467: diesel fuel with 6% to 20% biodiesel (B6 to B20)
  • D4814: gasoline with up to 10% ethanol (E10)
  • D4814/ASTM D5798: mid-range ethanol/gasoline blends (E11 to E50)
  • D5798: high-range ethanol/gasoline blends (E51 to E85)

To further assist fuel site operators, UL has created a Fuel Compatibility Tool that can be found at productiQ.UL.com. This tool provides information designed to assist equipment manufacturers and fuel site operators as they either develop or deploy hanging hardware that must meet all approved fuel compatibility requirements from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as the full range of state, local and other code authorities.

Most operators understand ethanol and biodiesel are structurally different from unleaded gasoline and straight diesel. They probably also know that ethanol has compatibility with such metals as 304 and 316 stainless steel and ductile iron (but not aluminum, especially in higher E85 concentrations). The same is true for polymers such as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, or Teflon®) and polyoxymethylene (POM, or acetal), but ethanol reacts poorly with Buna-N, nylon and urethane. Biodiesel, on the other hand, will degrade some metals like lead, tin, copper, zinc and alloys such as brass and bronze, while aluminum and stainless steel are compatible with the fuel. PTFE, Buna-N, high-density polyethylene (PE) and Viton® are rubber-type materials that play well with biodiesel, while natural rubbers are the least compatible with the fuel.

What operators may not understand is that within the specific product families the common E10, E15 and E85 ethanol formulations, along with B5, B20 and B100 biodiesel, can all have different compatibility requirements. This means that an operator, for example, who assumes that all formulations of ethanol possess the same handling characteristics can experience difficulties if he outfits a fueling island that is dispensing an E15 blend with equipment that has been approved only for use up to E10. The most common problem in a scenario like this is the degradation of seals, gaskets and hoses that can lead to leaks. These leaks can grow into dramatic product-release scenarios that can require cleanup and remediation costs for spilled fuel and, in a worst-case situation, a dangerous fueling operation for the driver, site personnel, surrounding community and the environment.

 

Don’t Get Left Hanging

Knowing the added complexities that are now inherent in operating a retail fueling location, some manufacturers of hanging hardware have taken great pains to develop a portfolio of breakaways, hoses, swivels and fuel dispensing nozzles that are constructed of materials that are third-party approved for use in the specific fueling application. For example, at OPW we have taken this retailer assistance to the next level with the creation of fuel-specific Hanging Hardware Kits (also referred to as Hose Kits) that feature hanging hardware that is third-party approved for use with the specific fuel formulations. Additionally, the kits can be configured to meet the needs of very specific fueling operation parameters, from basic 3/4-inch nozzles and hoses to 1-inch high-speed truck-stop nozzles and hoses and the new “dripless” nozzles that have begun to enter the market.

An expanding menu of fuel formulations means that fuel site operators must be in tune with all of the unique and specific idiosyncrasies and handling characteristics of the fuels that they stock. It also means that they must be certain that the hanging hardware components that are featured at the fueling island are approved for use with the fuel that they are dispensing.

 

Ed Kammerer is the Director of Global Product Management for OPW Retail Fueling, based in Cincinnati, OH, USA. He can be reached at ed.kammerer@opwglobal.com. OPW delivers product excellence and a comprehensive line of fueling equipment and services to retail and commercial fueling operations around the globe. For more information on OPW, please go to opwglobal.com.