MTBE and Other Fuel Oxygenates

MTBE (methyl tert-butyl ether) is almost exclusively used as a fuel additive in motor gasoline. Because MTBE raises the oxygen content of gasoline, it and similar chemicals are known as “oxygenates.” Oxygen helps gasoline burn more completely, reducing harmful tailpipe emissions from motor vehicles. However, MTBE and other oxygenates threaten domestic groundwater supplies when gasoline from underground storage tanks seeps into groundwater. Studies by the U.S. Geological Survey and others indicate widespread contamination of the U.S. drinking water supplies by MTBE and other oxygenates. Traditional methods of removing gasoline constituents from groundwater do not work well for MTBE.

The MTBE Team addressed key technical aspects of removing MTBE, tert-butyl alcohol (TBA), and other ether- and alcohol-based fuel oxygenates from groundwater.  The MTBE Team completed a technology overview document in 2005 called “Overview of Groundwater Remediation Technologies for MTBE and TBA (MTBE-1)”.

The MTBE Team served as a leading forum for state-led efforts to regulate MTBE and promoted clear national guidance on MTBE risk standards. Members of the MTBE Team actively coordinated and participated in other groups, including the Remediation Technologies Development Forum (RTDF), the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO), U.S. EPA, and the American Petroleum Institute.