A Havre convenience store had some problems with gasoline that were passed on to its customers and was working Monday to solve the problem.
Montana Department of Labor and Industries Communications Director Annie Glover confirmed in a message left Monday afternoon that Town Pump of Havre had a tank with “phase separation” and the Butte-based company had quit selling gas from the tank and was draining it Monday.
Some car dealerships in the area have reported that they have repaired several cars in recent weeks with problems related to phase separation. Cost of the repairs usually comes to about $200, they said.
A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency memo says phase separation can occur when water, spilled into gasoline or absorbed into the fuel. separates from the gas, which can occur with drops in temperature. When the water is dissolved in the gas, it generally has no impact except a possible drop in fuel efficiency, but if it separates and runs through an engine it can stall or even damage the engine.
The memo says gasoline blended with ethanol, a kind of “oxygenated gasoline,” is more likely to absorb water, although it also says ethanol blends are less likely to separate.
The Havre Daily News was not able to confirm by deadline whether the affected tank contained an ethanol blend.
The Havre Daily News contacted Town Pump at its Butte headquarters this morning, but had not received a response as of printing deadline.
Glover said Town Pump is recommending people who had any fuel problems “should go ahead and go to the store, fill out an in-store report and bring all receipts for the fuel and any repairs.”
Tilleman Motor Co. service adviser Jerry Labudy said Monday that the Havre company had seen quite a few cars with water in their gas tanks.
He said the company has worked on probably 20 to 30 cars in the last month with that problem.
The fuel tank has to be drained and refilled, and it should not cause any lasting damage, Labudy said.
Solving the problem generally costs about $200, he said.
The EPA memo says everyone should try to avoid phase separation in gasoline.
“First of all, gasoline should not be stored for long periods of time, especially during seasonal changes which usually have large temperature changes associated with them,” the memo says. “(For both oxygenated and conventional gasolines, gumming can also occur which is detrimental to any engine.) If it is unavoidable to store gasoline for a long period of time, one should be sure that the tank if full to prevent condensation of water from the air, and the addition of a fuel stabilizer should be considered. Lastly, care should be taken not to allow water into the fuel sytem while filling fuel tanks or operating the engine — in the form of rain or a splash, for example.”
Online: EPA phase separation memo: http://epa.gov/otaq/regs/fuels/rfg/waterphs.pdf