In the effort to be green, UK Government has unwittingly unleashed a new, invisible pollution problem

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The push towards biofuels from the UK Government and the wider EU has presented petrol station forecourt owners with an unexpected pollution problem.

With rising global pressure to increase our use of sustainable fuels, there is a growing reliance on biofuels to help power our vehicles. EU legislation means that the mandated percentage of ethanol or fatty acid methyl esters (FAME) in each litre of fuel will continue to rise in the coming years.

Whilst this is good news for the planet, there is an unintended consequence that may impact on the environment we are trying so hard to protect, creating The Biofuel Paradox.

The problem lies in the chemistry that takes place at the barrier that protects fuel spillage and leaks from leaving the forecourt and entering the watercourse.

Standard fuel separators were designed before biofuels were part of the protection equation. Based on the science of separation, they work by retaining or evaporating floating fuel and allowing rainwater to pass through the collector and drain away. However, with the addition of ethanol to the fuel mix the chemistry changes. And with that change harmful BTEX – the lethal contaminants benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene – are introduced into the water.

It happens because ethanol has a propensity to join water when it is present and disperse within it. This wouldn’t be a major issue, except that the BTEX in fuel also follows the ethanol into the water, when ethanol is present. This renders the traditional oil / water separation process useless at preventing the nastiest contaminants from leaving forecourts hidden inside the water, and out into the environment.

Mark Calvert, Managing Director, Adler and Allan Ltd

Hydro International is partnering with Adler and Allan to provide water pollution management expertise that helps businesses and public organisations to protect the environment from surface water pollution. To learn more visit the Hydro International Water Pollution Management page, or join the biofuels conversation here: The Biofuel Paradox.

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