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Will MTBE Fiasco Affect Petroleum Equipment?

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Posted / Last update: 01-09-1999
Publication: Petroleum Equipment & Technology Archive
Issued: September 1999
Author: Geyer Wayne B. , PE, POE

Cleaner air, dirty water dilemma

In November 1998, Carole Browner, Admisistrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), appointed a Blue Ribbon Panel to investigate the air quality benefits and water quality concern associated with oxygenates in gasoline.

In November 1998, Carole Browner, Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), appointed a Blue Ribbon Panel to investigate the air quality benefits and water quality concerns associated with oxygenates in gasoline. The Panel met six times in 1999 and released its findings and recommendations on July 27.

Impact of MTBE reduction
One oxygenate of particular concern to the Panel was Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE). MTBE has been found in a number of water supplies in different parts of the country. The Panel commented on a number of different issues—from treatment and remediation of soils to the motor vehicle fuel supply infrastructure, to public education, to maintaining air quality benefits and to enhancing current underground storage tank (UST) enforcement efforts. But the most significant recommendation by the Panel was to reduce the use of MTBE substantially as an oxygenated fuel additive.

What type of impact would such an action have on the installation of petroleum equipment? It might be a bit too soon to develop a final conclusion on this question. But, in addition to the proposed reduction of MTBE usage, the Blue Ribbon Panel made some other recommendations that might be indicative of coming changes. They included:

  • A suggestion for Congress to “expand the universe of regulated tanks to include small aboveground fuel storage systems that are not currently regulated yet pose substantial risk to drinking water supplies.”
  • A suggestion to “expand programs to train and license UST system installers and maintenance personnel.”
  • Suggestions to “strengthen release-detection requirements to enhance early detection” and to “evaluate the field performance of current system design requirements and technology and, based on that evaluation, improve system requirements to minimize leaks/releases, particularly in vulnerable areas.”

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