- Associated Press - Sunday, September 27, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Since 2007, Petro Serve USA has installed 80 ethanol blender pumps at its 24 North Dakota locations - some with the help of grants, others purchased outright.

“Those pumps have worked spectacularly for us,” said CEO Kent Satrang.

About 200 pumps were installed in North Dakota thanks to a four-year, state-funded grant program. Hoping to build on that success, a new $100 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant will help pay for about 90 more pumps statewide.

“There’s always room for growth,” said Deana Wiese, executive director of the North Dakota Ethanol Council.

Andrea Pfennig, program administrator for the North Dakota Department of Commerce, which will distribute the USDA funds, said the department received several calls from gas stations expressing interest in the USDA program. Because of that interest, the state applied for that federal funding.

The program is a good fit for the Commerce Department because it will give consumers more choices at the pump, according to Pfennig.

The funds should be available Oct. 1, and station owners can apply for multiple pumps. Pfennig said the department would like to add pumps to at least 12 new retail locations.

There are five stations that offer higher-level ethanol blends, ranging from E15 to E85, in Bismarck-Mandan, Wiese told The Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/1iO2RtR ).

The council is hoping this round of USDA funding will lead to more retail locations in the western half of the state adding blender pumps, Wiese said. And Pfennig said a percentage of the funds already have been reserved for western gas stations.

“The thing that makes them successful in my mind is it gives (customers) the choice to pick what works best for them,” Satrang said.

Satrang’s stations offer straight gasoline, E10, E15, E30 at some locations, and E85. For diesel fuel, he offers a soy diesel as an alternative fuel in the summer. He said E10, which is available at gas stations across the state, is the most popular, followed by E85.

“E15 is really growing,” he said, and his Bismarck-Mandan locations are the highest-selling stations for ethanol blends.

About 840,000 vehicles statewide, which includes all 2001 and newer light-duty vehicles and flex fuel vehicles, can use E15 or higher. This is approximately 80 percent of the cars, trucks and SUVs on the road, Wiese said.

In 2008, prior to North Dakota’s Biofuels Blender Pump Program, there were roughly 28,000 flex fuel vehicles. In 2014, following the program, there were 115,000 flex fuel vehicles, a more than 300 percent increase.

Over the life of the state Biofuels Blender Pump program, 2009 to 2013, ethanol sales in the state increased by 56 percent. In 2014, ethanol sales increased by 22 percent over 2013.

Wiese said she does not expect the increase in blender pumps to affect the amount of ethanol produced in the state but she does expect it to increase the amount sold, in turn keeping more money spent on ethanol in local pockets. In 2014, 89 percent of the state’s ethanol production was exported, she said.

It also can help keep some change in consumers’ pockets because ethanol blended fuels cost about 50 cents less, according to Satrang.

He said it helps the state’s agriculture and rural economy because Petro Serve is a cooperative with lots of farmer owners who grew the crops that made the fuel. Ethanol plants in the state are in towns of 2,500 people or less, providing jobs to areas that need them.

“Revitalizing rural Main Street is what Petro Serve is all about,” Satrang said.

___

Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com


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