Ethanol and Gasoline Fuel Blend Releases

Environmental Services Program fact sheet
Division of Environmental Quality Director: Ed Galbraith

Division Public Safety logoDivision of Public Safety - Division of Fire Safety fact sheet

Disclaimer: The statements in this document are intended solely as guidance. This
document is not intended, nor can it be relied on, to create any rights enforceable by any
party in litigation. This guidance may be revised without public notice to reflect changes in
law, regulation or policy.


The Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri Department of Public Safety, Division of Fire Safety have designed the following fact sheet to provide guidance to fire departments and emergency response personnel that may respond to releases involving ethanol and gasoline fuel blends. Rapidly rising gasoline prices and energy dependence have led to an increased interest in alternative fuels such as ethanol and gasoline fuel mixtures. The acceptance of the ethanol and gasoline fuel blend concept is expected to increase the number of ethanol plants in the Midwest. The increase in ethanol plants will naturally increase the transportation of gasoline fuel blends in Missouri and throughout the Midwest.

What is ethanol?
Ethanol is also known as ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol. Like gasoline, ethanol contains hydrogen and carbon, but ethanol also contains oxygen in its chemical structure. The addition of oxygen makes for a cleaner burning fuel than gasoline.

Properties of Ethanol and Ethanol/Gasoline Fuel Mixtures










Vapor density

Ethanol vapor, like gasoline vapor, is more dense than air and tends to settle in low areas. However, ethanol vapor disperses rapidly.

Solubility in water

Fuel ethanol will mix with water, but at high enough concentrations of water, the ethanol will separate from the gasoline.

Flame visibility

An ethanol/gasoline fuel blend flame is less bright than a gasoline flame but is visible in daylight.

Specific gravity

Pure ethanol and ethanol/gasoline blends are heavier than gasoline.


Ethanol and ethanol blends conduct electricity.  Gasoline, by contrast, is an electrical insulator.


Ethanol is less toxic than gasoline or methanol.  The gasoline component will be toxic to aquatic life. An ethanol release to water creates low dissolved oxygen. While toxic in high concentrations, ethanol most likely may cause a fish kill due to oxygen depletion.


Flashpoint for gasoline=-45° F, Flashpoint for pure ethanol= 55° F,

Flashpoint for E85= -20 to -4° F,

Considerations: pure ethanol(UEL=19% LEL=3.3%) and E85 (UEL=19% LEL=1.4%) have a wider range of flammability than gasoline (UEL=7.7% LEL=1.4%) and gasoline has a lower flash point

What is an ethanol/gasoline fuel blend?
In the United States ethanol is primarily produced from corn. Ethanol is denatured at the ethanol plant to prevent ingestion. The denaturing agent most often used is some type of hydrocarbon such as gasoline. Denatured ethanol may contain 2 to 15 percent gasoline, making it an ethanol and gasoline fuel blend.

For example, E85 contains 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Other blends may include E10, which contains 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline, and E15, which contains 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline. Spills and fires involving ethanol and gasoline blends should be treated differently than traditional gasoline spills and fires.

Potential Fire Fighting Hazards
Fires involving E85 and other ethanol/gasoline blends mix readily with water and will degrade the effectiveness of fire fighting foam, which is not alcohol-resistant. Because of this, the following fire fighting measures should be considered when responding to ethanol and gasoline blend incidents.

According to the North American Emergency Response Guidebook 2012, responders should:

For fires, responders should:

Spill or Leak Prevention
According to the North American Emergency Response Guidebook 2012, responders should:

Additional Guidance

Spill Reporting Requirements
If a release of ethanol/gasoline blend occurs, the department urges the responding agency and responsible party to notify the department’s 24-hour spill line as soon as possible at 573-634-2436. Under the Oil Pollution Act ethanol fuel mixtures are considered a petroleum product. Thus, any amount of petroleum threatening a waterway or creating a sheen on a waterway is reportable. In accordance with sections 260.500 through 260.550, Revised Statutes of Missouri, commonly referred to as the “Spill Bill”, any release of petroleum in excess of 50 gallons is reportable.

Placarding/Department of Transportation Reference
At present, blends containing ethanol and gasoline may be placarded in one of the following ways:

Alcohols, n.o.s., 3, UN1987 - Special Provision172 allows alcohol blends containing up to 5 percent gasoline under this description.

Denatured alcohol, 3 NA1987 - Special Provision172 allows blends containing up to 5 percent gasoline under this description.

Ethanol, Ethyl Alcohol Solution, UN1170 E100 - 100 percent Ethanol

Flammable liquid, n.o.s. (ethanol gasoline), 3, UN1993 - May include varying concentrations of ethanol/gasoline.

Gasoline, 3, NA1203 - Authorized for gasoline mixed with not more than 20 percent ethanol – for U.S. shipment only.

3, NA3475 (mandatory in 2010, voluntary compliance is permitted immediately) - Ethanol and gasoline mixtures, ethanol and motor spirit, and ethanol and petrol mixtures with more than 10 percent ethanol.

The placard should look like the following with one of the above UN and NA numbers inserted.

Department of Transportation placard

For more information
Missouri Department of Natural Resources
Environmental Emergency Response Section
P.O. Box 176
Jefferson City, MO 65102-0176

Missouri Department of Public Safety
Division of Fire Safety
P.O. Box 844
Jefferson City, MO 65102
573-751-1744 Fax