What are the storage and handling guidelines with regards to the use of neat and blended fuel ethers in petrol?

A study undertaken by the European Commission has demonstrated that requirements governing the construction and operation of the Underground Storage Tanks (UST) systems are in place across much of the EU to safeguarding water quality in Europe.
Generally, all technical requirements and operational practices which apply to petrol are applicable for neat ETBE and MTBE and also petrol containing them. However with the following areas requiring specific attention:

  • Gasket materials compatibility to be checked
  • Vapour recovery design, capacity to be checked
  • Storage tanks should have floating roofs and domes
  • Tank bottom water phases to be directed to adapted waste water treatment
  • Special emphasis on leak prevention/detection and soil/groundwater protection
  • Emergency response: oxygenates-compatible extinction foams, adsorbents
  • Minimised response time for soil/groundwater remediation in case of a leakage or splash
  • Medical emergency response (MSDS)

With respect to spills or leaks, owners and operators of installations that handle petrol should be well aware of local, regional and national regulations and legislation. As a minimum, it is recommended to alert local water authorities in any major petrol spill or leakage whether there are fuel ethers or other oxygenates involved or not. The same applies even for small spills and leakages in sensitive areas. More details are available in the MTBE Resource Guide.

Unlike most ethers, MTBE does not tend to form peroxides (auto-oxidise) during storage.
However, ETBE can form peroxides in the presence of oxygen gas or oxidative agents. The peroxidation reaction is slow in typical storage conditions, but it is enhanced by the UV light. Peroxides in ETBE reduce its octane performance very rapidly even at low concentrations. Higher peroxide concentrations can catalyse gum formation and even lead to breakdown into corrosive acids. Therefore, peroxide formation during storing of neat ETBE should be prevented by the addition of an adequate quantity of a typical petrol antioxidant agent such as phenylene diamine. When used in petrol blends, no additional stabilization is needed due to the presence of ETBE.

Appropriate emergency notification and response systems for fire and spill management should be in place at each facility where MTBE & ETBE are received, stored, or used. They should be handled only by workers trained in safe handling methods and response to emergencies such as spills or fires.

Further reading:

Code of Best Practice for Fuel Ethers

2009 Update on Code of Best Practice for Fuel Ethers