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E15 may harm engines: industry report.

Oil consumption is down in the U.S., and not only because American motorists are driving fewer miles with more efficient vehicles. In recent years ethanol has been blended into gasoline in order to supplement petroleum with biofuel.

But is ethanol safe to use in engines that weren't designed for it? In May, a study paid for by the Coordinating Research Council, a non-profit group supported by automobile manufacturers and the petroleum industry, concluded that in certain models of cars, the use of E15--a blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline-may cause engine damage.

The study tested eight types of recent-model vehicles of various engine configurations, sizes, valve train types, and fuel efficiency with different ethanol-gasoline blends. The engines were run for 500 hours using E20 and were then checked for damage. If the E20 caused problems, the tests were run (using different vehicles of the same make and model) with El5 and then EO--straight gasoline.

Two of the eight vehicles were found to have damage after running on El5. According to the report, teardowns of the damaged engines showed such problems as uneven wear and pitting of the intake valve seats, widened exhaust valve seats, and valve lash degradation.

The report cautions that while the engines displayed signs of wear, it isn't proof that the damage came from the use of ethanol. There's an 11 percent chance that the failures discovered were independent of running the engines on E15. More research is needed to prove the causation, and to discover the means by which the damage occurs.

Blends of up to E10 are common in the U.S. In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency began allowing the sale of E15 in some areas, though limited to cars and light trucks built since 2001. Vehicles that have been specially designed to handle the more corrosive fuel can use blends that have up to 85 percent ethanol.

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Title Annotation:NEWS & NOTES
Comment:E15 may harm engines: industry report.(NEWS & NOTES)
Publication:Mechanical Engineering-CIME
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2012
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