EPA opens public comment period on isobutanol fuel registration

By Erin Voegele | April 03, 2018

The U.S. EPA is seeking public comment on any aspect of the use of isobutanol in gasoline in response to fuel registration application filed by Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC. The public comment period ends April 30.

The EPA filed a notice seeking comments on the use of isobutanol in gasoline in the Federal Register on March 29. According to the notice, Butamax—a manufacturer of isobutanol—has submitted an application for the registration of isobutanol as a gasoline additive at up to 16 percent on a volume basis.

The EPA said that the information submitted by Butamax would likely satisfy the applicable registration requirements. The EPA also noted that the Clean Air Act requires the agency to register a fuel or fuel additive once all of the applicable registration requirements have been met by the manufacturer.

“Due to the potential for the widespread introduction of isobutanol into commerce, we are taking steps to make the public aware of the likelihood of this registration,” said the EPA in the notice. “We are seeking public comment regarding any issues we should take into consideration for this registration and any supplemental actions we should consider under the Clean Air Act to further protect public health and welfare.”

The notice explains that current fuel regulations specify that a company with total annual sales of less than $50 million qualifies as a small business and is exempt, in certain instances, from applicable testing requirements. The EPA said that it has previously registered isobutanol as a fuel additive for companies that qualify under this provision as a small business.

Fuel and fuel additive manufacturers with total annual sales of $50 million or more, however, do not quality as small businesses and are prohibited from registering the use of isobutanol produced by small businesses. Rather, these companies must comply with all applicable registration requirements, including health effects testing.

According to the EPA, gasoline manufacturers typically have sales greater than $50 million per year and would need to register isobutanol as an additive to their gasoline if they wanted to use it. Therefore, a gasoline manufacturer cannot rely on the registration of a small additive manufacturer as a means of complying with fuel registration requirements under 40 CFR part 79 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

The EPA explained that because no gasoline manufacturer has completed registration under 40 CFR part 79, the agency has yet to grant a registration request of isobutanol as an additive to gasoline by a gasoline manufacturer. “This has resulted in limiting isobutanol to blending at terminals by parties that are not gasoline manufacturers,” the EPA said, adding that this is one reason that isobutanol has not yet been introduced into commerce at any significant volume.

According to the EPA, Butamax does not qualify as a small business and must conduct Tier 1 and either Tier 2 or Alternative Tier 2 health-effects testing as part of the fuel registration process. The agency said its current review leads it to believe Butamax will likely meet requisite health effects testing and other requirements for fuel registration.

The EPA said it will register isobutanol for Butamax in accordance with 40 CFR part 79 once applicable requirements are met. The company has already submitted the required information.

The agency also said it is seeking comments any information and data on the use of isobutanol in gasoline, including, but not limited to, the need for additional health-effects testing under Tier 3 provisions in the regulations and the need for additional regulatory controls for 16 percent isobutanol in gasoline beyond those included for gasoline under 40 CFP parts 79 and 80 under section 211(c) of the CAA.

Comments can be filed under Docket Number EPA-HQ-OAR-2018-0131 on Regulations.gov. Additional information is available on the Federal Register website