NMMA Conducts Biofuel Testing Funded by Department of Energy

The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) has begun a third summer season of alternative biofuel testing in an effort to further advance marine engine technology. NMMA is holding the tests in conjunction with the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) and Evinrude at the Washington Marina in Washington, DC.

Although the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the use of gasoline containing fifteen percent ethanol (also known as 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. The US Department of Energy (DOE) is funding the testing. In 2011, a DOE report on engines using E15 revealed performance issues including stalling, corrosion leading to oil or fuel leaks, increased emissions, and damaged valves, rubber fuel lines and gaskets.

In 2011 and 2012, NMMA and its partners, conducted 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 a combination of three fuels, including eight percent isobutanol, five percent ethanol and 87 percent 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. According to the NMMA, Isobutanol has been shown to produce no more emissions than pure, EPA-approved test gasoline, while producing 30 percent more energy than ethanol.

"They're going to put 100 test hours on 26-foot pontoon boat with twin engines,' says Lauren Dunn, NMMA's Public Relations Manager. "One engine will be running on the isobutanol, ethanol and gasoline blend, and the other engine will be running on regular fuel, which is around E10. After the end of the test period they'll take those engines and run full emissions tests on them and totally deconstruct them to examine the components to see if one or the other experienced any damage or decomposition. The information will be made publicly available once it's available.'

Dunn says there's no timeline as to when the information will be available.

In addition to evaluating new alternative biofuels for marine engines, NMMA's testing will be used by the auto industry, small engine industry, food industry and other members of the Smarter Fuel Future coalition to further develop alternatives to E15.

NMMA member organizations produce more than 80 percent of the boats, engines, trailers and accessories used by boaters and anglers throughout Canada and the US.