The problem with Ethanol fuels
Picked this up on the Supra website... very good read.... sorry about the layout, a little off on the margins but still readable.
The Problems With Ethanol
In the spring and early summer of this year (2010), we at White Lake Marine
have experienced no less than an epidemic of boat owners complaining about
ethanol related fuel problems. These problems range from poor performance
due to hard starting, rough running, hesitation, and even stalling -- to clogged up fuel filters and injectors, and also gummed up carburetors. In addition, more and more customers are continuing to bring their boats in for repairs for the same symptoms.
In the meanwhile, we have spent many hours researching this new dilemma
for our dealership and valued customers. Besides reading much material on the subject, we have spoken at length with officials at Pleasure Craft Marine and Indmar, well known manufacturers of marine engines. We have also consulted with personnel at oil and gasoline distributors, including one terminal where ethanol is actually blended with fuel. And last but not least, we have consulted with personnel with the manufacturers of Sea Foam and Marine Sta-bil which are special stabilizers for ethanol gasoline.
After doing the research and collecting facts and opinions from many different
sources, we have come to realize there are several common sense questions
that need to be answered. The following is a brief overview of these issues:
Why is ethanol just now becoming such a huge problem?
Prior to 2009, ethanol was not in all the fuel we use in many regions of the
southeastern United States. However, in the summer and fall of that year -- and particularly in the first six months of this year -- all the gasoline distributors began converting their stations over to ethanol fuels. Also, bear in mind that, thanks to our politicians, there is no notification required by law unless more than ten percent of ethanol is added to fuel. Even premium gas now has ethanol.
Unsuspecting boat owners purchased this ethanol blended fuel and stored
their boats for the winter. As it turns out, vehicles which sit for long periods of time, such as boats, lawn mowers, weed eaters, tractors etc are more
susceptible to ethanol problems.
The reason is as follows:
Ethanol is a magnet for water. It attaches itself to water, whether from the
bottom of the tank where natural condensation has occurred, or even from the air in the tank. Normally, water falls to the bottom where it is out of harms way until it reaches an unsafe level. However, ethanol actually “pulls” the moisture out of the air into the gasoline and suspends this water in the fuel, contaminating the whole tank. Being suspended in the fuel, the engine is then burning a mixture of gasoline and water -- all the time. Eventually, the ethanol separates from the gasoline (phase separation) and falls to the bottom of the tank still attached to the water, forming a “glob” of sticky material. When this substance accumulates high enough in the tank, then the engine is drawing in pure ethanol and water -- stalling the engine.
Cars and trucks are generally used every day, and therefore, use up the
ethanol fuel in a more timely fashion, giving it less time to cause problems.
However, be sure it is in fact accumulating moisture in those tanks as well over a longer period of time, and if allowed to accumulate, water can wreak havoc on the entire fuel system.
Another potential problem exists with the gas stations:
Bear in mind that ethanol is very corrosive and attacks aluminum and
fiberglass tanks. It also attacks rubber fuel lines and other fuel system
components unless they were manufactured specifically for use with ethanol.
According to the oil and gas distributors we spoke with, they cleaned their station tanks before adding ethanol fuels. However, it is true that some station owners did not, and as a result, the new ethanol fuels scrubbed and scoured their tanks free of old rust and accumulated debris. Then this loosened material actually went into many vehicles causing much damage. We know of one person whom this has already happened to, and reports of many others.
It is also noteworthy to mention that, due to the problems with ethanol, the oil companies refuse to allow ethanol fuels to be pumped in their main pipelines. They insist it be blended at the terminals where trucks are loaded for shipment to gas stations. It is not good for the oil companies -- but it is fine for our vehicles.
Another potential problem with gas stations is the fact that whereas ethanol is separating from fuel and collecting moister in our vehicles, it is also happening in the tanks at the gas stations -- a fact you won’t hear much about. However, it is common sense, as the same conditions exist in those underground tanks as does in vehicle tanks. As long as the station owners are vigilant and check their tanks on a frequent basis, and then pump out any ethanol and water collected on the bottom, then perhaps all will be well. However, when left to accumulate to a certain level, a concentration of water and ethanol is pumped into vehicles, again causing much harm. One station attendant at a large Exxon station confided they must check their tanks every day because of this very problem.
Other harmful effects of ethanol.
While the purpose of ethanol is supposedly to lessen our dependence on
foreign oil, and since it burns more cleanly due to its plant (non petroleum)
origins, it is also used as a less expensive method of boosting gasoline octane. When the ethanol separates from gasoline, then the fuel looses its octane rating, causing pinging or spark knocking in engines, again causing potential harm. Also, ethanol is a dry fuel in that it scours the oil film from cylinder walls, causing piston rings and other components to wear prematurely. Reports of ethanol damage to engines are being made more frequently, and lawsuits are becoming more common. A search on the internet for ethanol problems will give pause for serious reflection. However, beware there are some websites that give false information such as one which states that vehicles manufactured since 1970 can safely use ethanol. Don’t believe it -- as experience has proven otherwise.
What can I do about the problem with ethanol?
Generally speaking, the gasoline distributors have left a few stores scattered
around that still have non-ethanol fuel.
You should immediately try and locate an ethanol free store in your area and
use it in everything you own -- especially those vehicles that sit idle for long periods of time. It would be wise to call a few gasoline distributors in your area and they will advise you which of their stores have non-ethanol gas. The station attendants often do not know for sure, since it may not be posted on the pumps.
Secondly, you should get a can of Sea Foam or the new Marine Sta-bil and
put it in every vehicle. (Sea Foam can be found at automotive parts stores,
Super Wal-Marts, and marine dealers. Marine Sta-bil can be found at marine
dealers and some parts stores.) This will help disperse the water already
accumulated in the tank and help to make it burn with minimal harmful effects.
These special stabilizers literally take the water away from the ethanol by
isolating the water molecules. They also have cleaning agents and emulsifiers to
liquefy the gum and varnish already formed in the system. If problems still persist you will have to have your tank cleaned and new filters installed. By the way, the stabilizers used in the past, including regular Sta-bil, have only a minimal effect with ethanol fuels.
If you must use ethanol gasoline in your boat or other vehicles that are idle
for long periods of time, you will have to use one of these stabilizers in every tank of gas -- or else pay someone to remedy the inevitable problems which will occur.
According to Sea Foam, for your everyday car or truck, you should use a can
of their stabilizer in your fuel tank every 3,000 or 4,000 miles. This will ensure
the moisture and phase separation will be reduced to a minimum, thereby
preventing or minimizing any long term ill effects.
Another point to be made is ethanol causes poor gas mileage, especially when phase separation occurs. We have found that a tank full of non-ethanol
fuel and a can of one of these special stabilizers will restore fuel economy and give a noticeable increase in performance.
You will probably be interested in knowing there are at least three
contenders for the best treatments for ethanol gasoline. The following websites may be helpful. Sea Foam Marine Sta-Bil Startron
Looking for ethanol free fuels? http://pure-gas.org/
A good read and thanks. I put this out a few years ago when the issue was pandemic. Most boats at this point have made the transition, suffered the damage and learned or have obstained from exposure.
Ethanol and more.
By now I am sure you have read about or experienced or know a guy who knows a guy who heard about a guy who’s’ boat suffered aggravating expensive damage as a result of using ethanol laced fuel. Rumor and hearsay? Unfortunately no. Sadly most of the rumors and stories are true.
Ethanol or “E-10” means simply that the gasoline contains up-to 10% alchahol by volume. The grapevine has it that 15% ethanol fuel is coming. Putting aside the bureaucratic arguments such as ethanol is a bad idea based on bad science and twisted math and does nothing at all to help with greenhouse emissions, contains fewer BTU’s resulting in more fuel burned for a given power etc., there are few things you should know to better arm yourself against this current threat.
This first thing you should know is that there is no middle ground. When speaking of boats you must avoid or embrace ethanol 100%. A full commitment is required regardless of the direction you take. This is because E-10 doesn’t play well with conventional fuels. When mixed with common gasoline a phenomena known as “phase separation” occurs. In layman’s terms this means that the liquid in your tank becomes (un-mixed) so to speak. You will wind up with several layers of fluids and none of them are fit to burn in your engine. The good news is that in SW Florida the majority of fuel docks and delivery trucks pump regular high-octane MTBE gasoline. Alternatively nearly all roadside gas stations are pumping E-10. For me and I think for you this makes the decision an easy one. From personal experience in the two gas boats I run one burns MTBE and the other runs E-10. This first boat is a 34’ offshore center console with two very thirsty 250hp outboard engines. This boat has no trailer and is lift kept. As I am not about the schlep 54 five-gallon gas cans to the dock the decision is easy; Call the truck. On the other hand the Baitkiller, a 20’ CC with a single little four-stroke outboard runs all weekend on about 12 gallons of gas. So Friday night sees me at 7-11 with three red cans getting ready for the weekend. If your boat is trailer kept the decision is already made for you too as you most likely fuel at a gas station on the way to the ramp. Neither of the two boats I mentioned has any fuel related troubles for a couple of reasons. The main reason is that I never mix fuels. The big boat has never tasted E-10 and never will if I can help it. The little boat I re-powered 3 years ago and made the committed switch to ethanol then.
To ready the little boat for E-10 I removed every piece of the fuel system I could and threw it away. I replaced the tank withdrawal tube, fuel hose, primer bulb and filter. The little spin-on filter was replaced with a large capacity Racor 10 micron assembly that features a see through bowl. When we commissioned the boat and fueled with E-10 I instantly started seeing water in the bowl. We ran the boat for three hours stopping every 30 minutes and draining about a cup of water from the filter. Since then I keep the tank as empty as I dare and have had no water issues at all in three years. (Touch wood).
The problem with E-10 is threefold and using it in watercraft demands a basic understanding of your boats fuel storage system and how that relates to ethanol.
Ethanol and or alchahol is a great cleaning agent. It has the ability to dissolve the golden colored layer of fuel varnish that has accumulated in your tanks; lines, fittings and accessories from years of using MTBE fuels. All this dissolved varnish has a tendency to plug filters; injectors, pumps and worse yet, re-solidify on hot intake valves causing major engine failures. That is why I stress replacing everything you can and cleaning the tank if possible before making the switch.
Another trait of alcohol fuel is that it absorbs moisture at an alarming rate. Do you recall the age-old rule of storing your boat with a full tank to limit the build-up of condensation? Today, just the opposite is true. If you plan to leave your boat unused for en extended period I highly suggest you burn off as much fuel as you dare before leaving. The reason is that boats have an open fuel storage system. The gas tank on your boat is vented without restriction to the outside air. In a car your tank is sealed and usually pressurized making atmospheric moisture absorption a mute point. That is why cars don’t have water issues with E-10. I watched a You Tube video demonstration last week that was pretty conclusive. A mechanic filled two mayonnaise jars with gas. One he filled with E-10 and the other jar he filled with regular non-ethanol gas. He placed both jars on a workbench 6 feet from a fan. The fan was turned on and left running for one hour. At the end of that one-hour duration the jar containing the regular gas had no change in appearance. Conversely, the jar containing E-10 gas had turned cloudy and had accumulated an easy 1-inch of clear water in the bottom. Think about the wind blowing by your gas tank vent on your boat. The same thing is happening there.
In summary; when it comes to E-10 and your boat you should either avoid it or embrace it 100%. Make sure you run good 10-micron filters that can be easily drained of water and leave you tanks as low on fuel as you dare.
And of course remember that E-10 doesn’t play well with other fuels.
Call your Congressman and let him know that you don’t want E-15.
I have a few openings for yacht management and Capt. Services. Call the office for rates availability.
In some regions, the EPA requires reformulated gas. Since MTBE is a carcinogen, the oil companies no longer use it, leaving ethanol as the way to reformulate gas. The result is that the EPA requires ethanol reformulated gas in the shaded areas of the map: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/rfg/whereyoulive.htm
In other areas of the country which can still sell "pure gas," you need to read the gas pumps and question the clerks carefully. Fortunately, many stations are posting signs on the pumps stating that their gas is 100% pure. In Wisconsin (outside of the Milwaukee metro area) and Minnesota, Shell and Cenex seem to be leaders in posting that their premium gas is pure, ethanol-free gas.
The clear labels that they have on their pumps is to be commended.
Just recently experienced this issue with ethanol in NC. Been using a station right across from the lake. Now the old Moomba has been skipping a beat especially with heavy throttle for the occassional slalom skier. Come to find out, that station has the worst gas in the entire county. The marina sells ethanol free gas so I'm just going to pay the markup on their gas and be safe. I put some sea foam cleaner in the fuel and started using the marina gas...things seem to be fine now.
I burn fuel from anywhwere throughout the season and really haven't had issues. My boat doesn't sit that long during the summer, but I do go through the added hassle and expense of getting the non-ethanol fuels towards the end of the season. Good post.
I have been experiencing some hard start issues the last few times I have taken my boat out and can’t seem to diagnose the problem. The station I get my fuel from just recently switched over to the ethanol at the beginning of the summer. Makes me wonder if that is not the problem.
Interesting tidbit, MTBE is a great octane increaser. The tree hugging liberal pansies banned MTBE so now the refineries need to use something else to increase the octane of gas to acceptable levels. That's ethanol. Personally I'd rather we still burned tetraethyl lead. Back in the day if you spilled some gas it evaporated quickly, now it just sits there in a puddle and will eventually evaporate. Fuel quality just keeps getting worse.
In any event, thanks for the article and tips.
hmmmm... now you guys have me worried.
Anyone know what is the standard in SoCal?
... or a list of stations that have 'pure gas' ?
Cory, sure I would rather run leaded in the boat but you might rethink widespread tetraethyl lead if you saw the data on it and even more so if you had to work in the refineries using lead. Guess I'm a liberal pansie that likes an intact neurologic system.
RUSTY BUTZ Strikes Again!!
For a very good read on Ethanol I would encourage you to read go here
Current Ethanol Policy is actually a SOCIALIST POLICY put in place by President Reagan!
Yet another example where we should have stuck with the FREE MARKET
^^^ True, fewer BTUs means more fuel burned for a given rate of power. I mentioned it off topic in my opening. The Corn lobby and Big Sugar are very rich and own some very powerful and influential men. Look out for E15.
You can thank the Retards in the EPA for this crap. This is just another situation where the side effects are way worse than the original problem, I'm not even talking about the damage to the equipment the ethanol goes into.
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