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Shell Oil replaces sulfur-tainted gasoline Shell Oil replaces sulfur-tainted gasoline


Staff and wire reports

Published by on May 30, 2004


Shell Oil interrupted or stopped the sale of gasoline at more than 500 stations in the South because of high levels of sulfur that can damage vehicle fuel gauges and make an empty tank appear full.


The damage done by the bad gasoline could cause some drivers to run out of gas unexpectedly. Also, car owners may have to replace their fuel gauges — a repair job that easily can cost $400 to $600.


The tainted gasoline originated at the Motiva Enterprises refinery in Norco, La., according to Shell. Motiva is the refining arm of Shell in the East and South, including Florida.


Employees at several Fort Myers stations said their gasoline was tested early Friday and was fine.


Scott Newhouse, assistant service manager at Sam Galloway Ford in Fort Myers, and John Marazzi, general manager of Fort Myers Toyota, said they haven’t seen an increase of faulty tank sensors.


Whether a particular station was affected depended on when, and how often, the station has been resupplied with fuel, Shell spokesman Johan Zaayman said.


All Florida stations needing gasoline were resupplied Friday, Zaayman said. “All grades of gasoline now meet our quality standards,” he said.


The problem came to light this week after drivers began complaining about inaccurate fuel gauge readings.


Gas tanks have a float ball that rises and falls with the fuel level. An electrical system reads the float ball’s level and transmits the information to the dashboard fuel gauge. The system uses silver electrical contacts, which can be corroded by sulfur.


The company said it is investigating how the high sulfur levels occurred.


Car Problems

Florida residents who believe high-sulfur gasoline has caused a problem in their car should call Shell Oil toll-free at (866) 562-6690.

To spot fuel gauge troubles:

• Make sure the amount of fuel shown remaining in the gauge makes sense with how many miles you have driven.

• To avoid running out of gas, travel no more than 200 miles on a full tank of fuel.

• If you spot a problem, take your car to a certified repair technician. — Pat Moricca, president of the Gasoline Retailers of Florida   


The News-Press staff writers Tim Engstrom and Laura Ruane and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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