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Article complements of Capt Lou's Nautical News.


The latest news on the new gas we will be filling up with is called Ethanol. By law, Ethanol is the only type of gas that can be sold. If you do not pay attention on how to prepare your boat to use this new gas, your boat will be dead in the water.

Ethanol 10 is now the only legal gas being sold! This could prove to be a big headache for boat owners.

Prior to this month, the gas we were buying was called an “oxygenated” fuel that contained MTBE (Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether). It was determined that MTBE contaminated our ground water and was banned in many states. The gas you will be buying no longer has MBTE. It will have alcohol in it. Alcohol will be mixed into the gas at 10 to 1 ration to give it a higher octane. This new gas is called Ethanol 10. The big problem is that the new Ethanol gas and the old gas with MBTE does not mix! There are other major problems with Ethanol as well for boaters. Ethanol can stain and even dissolve fiberglass. How could the marine industry let this happen?

The marine industry accounts for 1% of all gasoline sold at the retail level, so we are not a major factor when the fuel and energy industries get together to come up with a formula for their gas.

Here are some more problems:

Ethanol does not store well. It doesn’t have a long shelf life. It does not store longer than 2 or 3 months without adding a stabilizer. Even so, Ethanol stored in fiberglass or plastic tanks will make the fiberglass soft and mushy, leading to tank failure and engine failure, because the plastic or fiberglass is dissolving into the gas.

Because Ethanol is an alcohol, it absorbs water like dry gas. Dry gas absorbed water because it too was an alcohol product. If there was water in the old type of gas, it stayed at the bottom of the tank. This is no longer the case with Ethanol. The Ethanol will absorb the water, which in turn will make the whole tank of gas bad. Therefore, it is recommended that upon switching to Ethanol, water separator fuel filters be changed frequently.

Boat gas tanks are more susceptible to getting water in them because of its opened fuel vent system and from condensation forming on the walls of the tank either while the boat is in storage or in between fill ups. Now, the moisture problem is critical with Ethanol, because it is an absorbent, it actually attracts the moisture in the air through the open vent system.

Other problems using Ethanol is that it will deteriorate rubber hoses and rubber fuel lines.

Ethanol is also a solvent. It will remove any sludge and grime from the walls on the tank. Again, a change of fuel filters will be necessary or else you will experience engine failure.

Still more bad news:

As soon as the entire east coast and the Great Lakes states switch to Ethanol, there will be a severe shortage of product. Energy experts say there will soon be a 130,000 gallon a day shortage of ethanol. What does that mean? At a minimum, higher prices, and the possibility of gas lines and rationing.

So what should a boater do?

Stock up on fuel water separator filters and keep them, as well as the proper tools to change them, on the boat.

Use as much gas in your tank as possible before filling up with Ethanol. It is recommended that you use 90% of your tank’s capacity before refilling with Ethanol. This is also very true for marinas with fuel docks. You will have to ask if they know what kind of gas they are selling. If they added the Ethanol to a half tank of the older gas, especially a tank with a little water on the bottom of the tank, it could cause severe engine problems. Why? Because the new Ethanol gas is a water absorber, and after it absorbs the water, the whole tank of gas becomes bad.

Remember, the Ethanol law is now in effect, but marinas got an extension until June 1st, because they are just opening now for the season, selling the gas they bought last October.

Any fuel dock that isn’t selling Ethanol 10 by June 1st,
faces up to a $32,500 fine per day.

Diesel boat owners will also see some changes.

Diesel fuel will be changing to a low sulphur fuel dropping from 350 ppm to 15 ppm. Then in the year 2010, ultra low sulphur diesel fuel will be mandatory. This could present lubrication problems in some older diesel engines, requiring owners to add a lubricant. Bio diesel fuel is one source for increased lubricity. Adding just 1% of biofuel increases lubricity by 65%.


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