Prime the Pump: Seeking to Grow Ethanol Demand, Expand E15 Infrastructure

From biofuels producers like POET to ag companies, there’s one industry effort that many are standing behind to support the growth in biofuels demand

It’s called Prime the Pump, and it was created to do just that: grow the demand for American ethanol and increase the availability of higher ethanol blends.

Prime the Pump assists early retail adopters of higher-level ethanol blends by awarding grants to help with their initial investments in infrastructure. The industry has invested nearly $70 million in this initiative.

Prime the Pump targets high-volume, high-profile retailers to provide E15 access. Increasing the demand for E15 — a biofuel that contains 15 percent ethanol — is pivotal to setting the pathway for the E30 market.

"The idea is, if you can encourage retailers to use it, that will have the dual effect of showing them the economic benefits of using it themselves and encouraging their competitors to use it, too," says Ray Defenbaugh, chairman of the Prime the Pump fund and President/CEO of Big River Resources.

There are multiple benefits to the Prime the Pump program, notes Mike O’Brien, Vice President of Market Development for Growth Energy. "The program has led to E15 being sold at more than ten of the largest retail chains in the nation, putting pressure on all retailers who don’t offer E15. We’re now receiving multiple calls from other large retail chains about offering E15. … E15 represents new demand for the ethanol industry and corn growers."

Major Independent Retail Chains Made Commitments to Offer E15

To date, major independent retail chains including Kwik Trip, QT, Thorntons, Sheetz, Kum & Go, Minnoco, Protec, MAPCO, Murphy USA, RaceTrac and Cenex have made commitments to offer E15 at more than 1,500 of their high-volume stores in the U.S.

Kum & Go was one of the first retailers to implement E15 as part of Prime the Pump. Today, Kum & Go offers E15 at 112 locations and is committed to installing E15 at the company’s new retail locations for the next several years. The company has 412 stores in 11 states across the Midwest.

"We see it [E15] as a fuel that has an excellent value proposition for customers," says Jim Pirolli, Vice President of Fuels for Kum & Go. "It’s a gateway to the next generation of fuels that offer the best overall mixture of low cost, low emissions, sustainability and performance. E15 is a great mid-level biofuel blend that can be used by a much wider customer base than E85. This can be used in the vast majority of cars on the road today."

E15 is approved for use in almost 90 percent of American vehicles. E15 may save drivers an average of 5 to 10 cents per gallon, savings that add up over the year.

Pirolli says that the Prime the Pump campaign helped Kum & Go position itself as an early adopter of E15, allowing the company to stay ahead of consumer preference and the demand curve. "Prime the Pump was instrumental and very successful at the specific mission they set out to do: increase access to these fuels by supporting retailer investment."

The momentum has prompted additional retail chains to begin offering E15. Casey’s, Family Express and others have all started offering E15.

Prime the Pump retail sites sell an average of around 3 billion gallons of gasoline annually per site. The national average is under 1 billion gallons of gasoline annually per site.

Increasing E15 sales continues to be a significant industry priority because of the gains it would bring to the industry and the American farmer.


Visit to locate the nearest E15 station and fill up. After filling, we encourage you to go inside and thank the retailer for offering consumer choice.




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