Industry tests planned on ethanol alternatives

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The recreational boating industry is conducting new Department of Energy-funded research on alternative biofuels.

On Thursday, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the American Boat and Yacht Council and Evinrude will join together to find alternatives to fuel containing more than 10 percent ethanol.

The tests are funded by the Department of Energy, which released a 2011 report on engines using E15 that revealed performance issues such as stalling, corrosion leading to oil or fuel leaks, increased emissions and damaged valves, rubber fuel lines and gaskets. The results reinforced the recreational boating industry’s concern that E15 is not a suitable fuel for boat engines.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency has approved the use of E15 for model year 2001 and newer cars and trucks, the boating industry has found that fuel containing more than 10 percent ethanol causes severe damage to boat engines. Although marine engines are not approved by the EPA to use E15, misfueling at the pump is a danger for boaters who are not aware that E15 is not compliant with boat engines.

The tests, in conjunction with the ABYC and Evinrude, are part of ongoing research conducted by the recreational boating industry to explore the alternative biofuel isobutanol in response to the introduction of E15.

In 2011 and 2012, the groups did initial testing on isobutanol, revealing that it could be a promising alternative to E15. This year, the team is following up on preliminary laboratory investigations that indicated that a combination of three fuels, including 8 percent isobutanol, 5 percent ethanol and gasoline can achieve larger quantities of biofuel while inhibiting the negative effects of ethanol, which include corrosion, low energy content and high Reid vapor pressure.

The testing will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Washington Marina in Washington, D.C.

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