TodayApril 17, 2022

Bob Tippee, Editor, Oil & Gas Journal

Boutique Fuels 

On April 25, 2006, President Bush directed EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson to bring the governors together to form a task force on boutique fuels. In President Bush’s speech he wanted to know if “special fuels” were contributing to a rise in prices and a shortage of supply. The mission of the task force was to find ways to reduce the number of boutique fuels and to increase cooperation between states on gasoline supply decisions. EPA invited views from industry experts, public health organizations, and other interested parties.

From the report, the major observations and recommendations include:

  • State fuel programs have provided significant, cost-effective air quality benefits. Any action to modify the state of existing boutique fuels or limit a state’s ability to adopt fuel programs must at least maintain air quality gains and avoid unnecessary restriction.
  • Any future analysis of potential changes to the number and types of fuels must utilize the most up-to-date data and analytical tools and ensure that all aspects are appropriately addressed, including impacts changes to fuel requirements may have on air quality, as well as the new generation of vehicles, fuel distribution, supply, and costs.

According to the EPA, “Boutique fuels are specialized blends produced for a specific state or area of the country to meet state and local air quality requirements. Boutique fuels deliver substantial air quality and public health benefit’s at minimal costs – ranging from three-tenths of a cent to three cents per gallon. Howe’ver, these unique fuels may present serious challenges to the fuel distribution system and, especially in times of disruption, may have the potential to result in local supply shortages.”Boutique fuels are created, usually in urban areas to create better air quality in those areas. Boutique fuels are often cited for an increase in the price of gas and limiting of supply. According to the EPA report, this is not correct, so, basically, everything stays status quo. According to Al Mannato, fuel issues manager for American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade association for the oil companies, “conventional gasoline has an RVP of 9 psi. The lower the psi number the lower the volatility of gasoline. Volatility is how much it evaporates as it burns or sits. The more emissions you have, the more smog you have. Smog creates the thinning of the ozone layer.”

What are boutique fuels?

Boutique fuels relate to gasoline, not diesel or ethanol, and are defined in this report as:

  • Any clean fuel program designed and enforced under state authority to reduce motor vehicle emissions and improve air quality; and,
  • Approved by the Agency under the authority of Section 211 (c)(4)(c) of CAA Amendments of 1990; and,
  • Included in an EPA-approved State Implementation Plan (SIP). Basically, a state can impose the fuel it needs in order to meet the federal government standard.

The reformulated gasoline (RFG) program is not considered a boutique fuel by the EPA. A law was passed in 1995 that required oxygenates. Back then only Milwaukee and Chicago used E10, everyone else started using methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE). As of May 8, 2006, oxygenates are no longer required, but the Renewable Fuels Standard created an annual average level of renewable be used and that level is being met with main ethanol.

Which states have boutique fuels?

Currently, 12 states have established state-specific SIP-approved controls on fuels. These 12 states have 15 boutique fuel programs. Kansas City, MO has 3 counties that require the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) of 7.0 psi. RVP is a measure of the gasoline evaporation rate. Higher RVP gasoline evaporates more easily at summer temperatures. Unless it is stipulated, RVP requirements are in effect from June 1 to September 15. Kansas City, KS has 2 counties that require the RVP of 7.0 psi. El Paso, TX county requires an RVP of 7.0 psi. Phoenix, AZ, Maricopa county requires an RVP of 7.0 psi from June 1 to September 30. AZs cleaner-burning gasoline is similar to federal RFG or California RFG in summer and similar only to California RFG in the winter.

  • Atlanta, GA has 45 county areas that require an RVP of 7.0 psi. Georgia’s boutique fuel includes a provision addressing sulfur content
  • Birmingham, AL has 2 counties that require an RVP of 7.0 psi.
  • East St. Louis, IL has 3 counties (near St. Louis, MO) that require an RVP of 7.2 psi.
  • Pittsburgh, PA has 7 county areas that require an RVP of 7.8 psi.
  • Clark and Floyd, IN, 2 counties near Louisville, KY requires an RVP of 7.8 psi
  • Detroit, MI has 7 counties that require an RVP of 7.8 psi
  • Southern, ME has 7 county areas that require an RVP of 7.8 psi.
  • Central and Eastern TX has 95 county areas that require an EVP of 7.8, extended from May 1 to October 1
  • In Eastern TX, including Houston and Dallas areas, there are 110 counties that require low emission diesel fuel with a maximum 10% volume aromatic hydrocarbon content and minimum cetane of 48 required. The regulations allow substitute plans with equivalent Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) reductions.
  • Las Vegas, NV has regulations on winter gasoline controls on aromatic hydrocarbon and sulfur. The President asked the EPA to look at boutique fuels because there are accusations being made that boutique fuels are increasing the price of gasoline. The EPA report did not reveal any studies or empirical data confirming that boutique fuels presently contribute to higher fuel prices or present unusual distribution problems. The report also said that the oil companies were able to provide adequate quantities of boutique fuels, as long as there are no disruptions in the supply chain. There were several general messages presented by the automotive and engine manufacturing sector:
  • Support a more harmonized approach to controlling fuel quality.8 Specifically, they support single national clean gasoline and clean diesel fuel standards. Unification of fuel quality standards supports more stringent calibration of engines and vehicles, ultimately resulting in optimization of emissions control and vehicle performance. Optimization can have positive effects on both air quality and vehicle efficiency.
  • The 2001 Boutique Fuels Study should be updated.
  • Expressed concerns over the lack of fuel specifications that would ensure that biofuel and renewable fuel standards would meet manufacturer-recommended quality specifications, and thereby avoid the potential to negatively impact both emissions and performance. Light-duty Vehicle Manufacturers
  • Support further controls on sulfur and establishing a distillation index cap on gasoline.
  • Support the national ultra-low sulfur diesel program and diesel fuel quality controls. Last year Congress passed the Energy legislation that limit’s the growth of boutique fuels and gives the EPA clearer authority to waive their use in response to supply disruptions, as they did with Hurricane Katrina.U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called for streamlining boutique fuels.
Lou Ann Hammond

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a founding member of the Women's World Car of the Year #WWCOTY, and board member of the Women in Automotive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.