Reformulated Gasoline and Your Motorboat
- As of January 1, 1995, every time you fill up your tank with gasoline, you are helping protect the quality of the air you breathe. By doing so, you will become part of one of the nation's most important strategies to reduce pollution from motor vehicles.Over five years ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began working cooperatively with the petroleum and engine manufacturing industries to reformulate gasoline to reduce emissions of ozone-forming and toxic air pollutants. The result -- a cleaner-burning gasoline, called reformulated gasoline, which has significant health benefits.Scientifically speaking, reformulated gasoline is very similar to conventional gasoline. In fact, reformulated gasoline is just one, out of hundreds of different formulations, for making gasoline. The ingredients used to make reformulated gasoline are no different from those used to make conventional gasoline. Reformulated and conventional gasoline differ only in the levels of ingredients. Specifically, reformulated gasoline has lower amounts of certain compounds that contribute to air pollution; it does not evaporate as readily as conventional gasoline during the summer months; and it contains "chemical oxygen" (oxygenates).
- The Clean Air Act requires the nine cities with the worst levels of ozone pollution to use reformulated gasoline. The cities include New York, Philadelphia, Hartford, Baltimore, Chicago, Milwaukee, Houston, San Diego, and Los Angeles. In addition, dozens of other cities are using reformulated gasoline voluntarily simply because it's a convenient, inexpensive way to improve air quality. In all, about one-third of the gasoline in the country is reformulated.
- The primary goal of the reformulated gasoline program is to protect health by reducing vehicle emissions of pollutants that form ground-level ozone, often called smog. Reformulated gasoline also reduces toxic air pollutants from vehicles.Ozone damages sensitive lung tissue and reduces lung function. Exposure to toxic air pollutants has been linked to increased rates of cancer.Reformulated gasoline produces 15 to 17 percent less pollution than conventional gasoline, and further improvements are expected as new formulas are developed. This year, the new, cleaner gasoline will reduce smog-producing emissions by more than 300,000 tons--the equivalent of removing 8.1. million cars from our roads. Nearly 1.3 million tons of ozone-forming emissions will be prevented in the first phase (1995-1999) and reductions will be even greater during the second phase of the program that begins in the year 2000.
- Marine engine manufacturers have indicated that the use of reformulated gasoline in their engines is acceptable, although some offer special instructions if you use reformulated gasoline. You should always check your owner's manual for any specific instructions.As a boat owner or operator, there are a number of simple things you can do if you are concerned about using reformulated gasoline in your marine engine:Be sure that your engine is properly tuned. The best thing you can do to make sure that your boat engine will operate properly on reformulated gasoline is to have your engine set to your manufacturer's tune-up specifications. While reformulated gasoline is very similar to conventional gasoline, there are differences. However, the differences are within the normal operating range of the engine and will not be noticeable unless your engine is out of tune. An engine using reformulated gasoline will operate at its best when properly adjusted to the manufacturer's tune-up specifications.Minimize Water Contamination. Water contamination occurs when water is introduced into the fuel tank, and can be caused by improper storage conditions at the distribution center or retail station or by accidental introduction of water during refueling.Reformulated gasoline contains chemical oxygen additives, commonly called oxygenates. These oxygenates are either alcohols or ethers. Currently, the most common oxygenates used are ethanol, which is an alcohol, and Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE), which is an ether. By nature, alcohol tends to have a greater affinity for water than ether-based oxygenates. If a fuel containing ethanol is used under conditions where water contamination is likely to be a factor, precautions should be taken to avoid such contamination. Of course, water contamination of any fuel blend should be avoided. Many oil companies are providing, or working to provide, clear labels for gasoline pumps to let you know which oxygenate is in the reformulated gasoline you're buying. If the pump isn't labeled, ask the service station attendant for information about the additive used in their gasoline. However, if you haven't had water contamination problems with conventional gasoline in the past, you shouldn't have a problem using either type of reformulated gasoline. To avoid possible contamination problems, the following fuel precautions should always be considered in storing and operating your boat:
Use good gasoline storage management
- For many years, marinas have managed their tanks to minimize the effects of water contamination and deterioration. You should do the same with the tank in your boat. When storing your boat or gasoline container, make sure that the tank or container is either completely full or completely empty.
Use a water-separating fuel filter
- Where you want maximum protection, a water-separating fuel filter will provide the greatest level of protection from possible problems with water contamination. So when you replace your fuel filter, choose the water-separating type.
Check hoses for deterioration at least once a year
- Newer fuel systems are expected to be unaffected by oxygenated fuels. But some manufacturers are concerned that hoses in fuel systems produced before 1980 might be more prone to damage from alcohol-oxygenated fuels. Hoses that are susceptible to alcohol damage can become brittle or soft and, over time, deteriorate. EPA recommends that you follow the manufacturer's inspection requirements, with at least an annual inspection of hoses and other rubber components exposed to fuel. Components that appear deteriorated should be replaced.
By using reformulated gasoline you are improving the air you breathe, and protecting the air for future generations.
For more information:
The Office of Mobile Sources is the national center for research and policy on air pollution from highway and off-highway motor vehicles and equipment. You can write to us at the EPA National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory, 2565 Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48105. Our phone number is (313) 668-4333.