PHMSA requests comments on biofuel pipeline transport

Aug. 1, 2007
The Pipeline Hazardous Materials and Safety Administration (PHMSA) is looking at ways to transport biofuels via pipelines according to the Federal Register

The Pipeline Hazardous Materials and Safety Administration (PHMSA) is looking at ways to transport biofuels via pipelines, and is seeking comments on the agency's efforts to identify and address the short-, medium-, and long-term opportunities and challenges that are associated with transporting those products, according to the Federal Register published August 10.

This notice points out that most ethanol is transported from production or import locations by highway, rail, and/or barge and blended with gasoline at or near the point of retail distribution. To sustain market growth needed to meet current targets, PHMSA believes that pipelines must be an option for high-volume transportation of biofuel products, according to the Federal Register information.

PHMSA said in the notice that it considers all biofuel-gasoline blends to be petroleum products, within the meaning of 49 CFR 195.2, regardless of their relative biofuel/gasoline content. Accordingly, any pipeline used to transport such blends, whether in batches or in dedicated infrastructure, would be subject to PHMSA's existing standards for hazardous liquid pipelines.

Unblended ethanol and other biofuels produced by biological fermentation and vegetable- and animal-oil based biodiesel products are not petroleum products, as PHMSA has defined the term (49 CFR 195.2). However, based on their physical properties, these substances clearly meet the alternative definition of hazardous liquid under 49 USC 60101(a)(4)(B), PHMSA said.

The agency is considering whether it is necessary to amend the definition of hazardous liquid in 49 CFR 195.2 to expressly include ethanol and biofuels. Such an amendment would confirm that the transportation of pure ethanol or biofuels by dedicated biofuel pipelines is subject to Part 195. If biofuels will always be denatured by blending them with petroleum products prior to transporting them by pipeline, however, amending this regulatory definition may be unnecessary. Accordingly, PHMSA invites comments on whether the agency should amend 49 CFR Part 195 to expressly include (non-blended) ethanol and biofuels in the definition of hazardous liquid. The PHMSA also seeks comments on whether any of the existing requirements for hazardous liquid pipelines in Part 195 should not apply to ethanol and biofuel pipelines and if not, why not. The agency also invites comments on whether there is a need for any requirements to specifically address pipelines transporting ethanol and biofuels.

Deadline for submitting comments is Sept 10, 2007, and should also include comments on technical issues, adequacy of standards, and research and development needs associated with the transportation of biofuels by pipeline.

For more information on this notice, access