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Let the Facts be the Facts

November 18, 2014


It is never acceptable to sensationalize the facts to the point where they are no longer facts. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) learned this lesson when releasing its study Corrosion of copper and steel alloys in a simulated underground storage-tank sump environment containing acid-producing bacteria. The RFA wrote to NIST in August explaining that the NIST press release misconstrued the studys findings and thus served to undermine any of the reports credibility and that the tone and tenor of the press release served to vilify ethanol by pointing to irrelevant copper and steel analysis on acetobacter induced corrosion in the presence of ethanol. The retail infrastructure industry looks to NIST for accurate and timely data. Misinformation like this will spread and have far reaching implications for the industry. In addition to the press release, the study itself had a number of major flaws which were addressed in the RFA letter to NIST. First and foremost, the study was conducted in a lab and thus had no direct connection to the daily working conditions of a UST system. Additionally, the NIST study alluded that corrosion happens at all sites, while in fact, these rare corrosion events occur sporadically at various sites with no consistent trends. Third, the study appears to confuse the role of biodiesel in the fuel supply, compromising the reliability of the study. And last, the test fluid used contained a different pH balance than the fuel found in the field. Corroborating RFAs concerns of the NIST study, the Steel Tank Institute dug into the issue and interviewed NIST metallurgist Jeff Sowards. Sowards interview was summarized in a recent blog post by the Steel Tank Institute where he explained that the NIST study examined corrosion specifically in sump pumps and not entire storage tanks. The Steel Tank Institute concluded in the blog post that STI/SPFA has performed research to support that ethanol storage is not linked with steel tank failures. In fact, steel tanks have been conclusively shown to be compatible with all ethanol blends. This should finally help clear up the confusion created by NIST; and next time lets just let the facts be the facts.