Strain: Exxon's bad fuel totals 5M gallons
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — More than five million gallons of gasoline shipped from the ExxonMobil Baton Rouge terminal in mid-March was tainted by something that's causing the intake and valve systems of vehicles to gum up, a state official said.
Mike Strain, Louisiana's Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, said he's been speaking with Exxon officials since late Wednesday about the bad fuel. He said Thursday that the problem is contained to two batches of gasoline — a total of 120,000 barrels — shipped between March 12 and March 15. One barrel contains 42 gallons of gas..
"What we think is something got in the fuel that shouldn't have gotten in," Strain said.
Agents from the Department of Agriculture and Forestry's weights and measures division are testing gasoline from several Baton Rouge gas stations for a variety of things, from sulphur content to octane to flash point in an attempt to find out what the substance is.
ExxonMobil said it is working with Exxon-branded stations and other wholesale fuel customers to ensure a continued supply of fuel for motorists.
"We are taking this matter seriously and are investigating the issue to determine the cause," the company said in a brief statement, adding, "We are working in close cooperation and communication with regulatory and local officials."
The company also directed anyone with questions about fuel purchased in the Baton Rouge area to call the ExxonMobil North America Customer Care center at 855-300-2659.
The president of a Baton Rouge automotive shop said Thursday he's seen "40 or 50" cases in the past week of motorists getting bad fuel.
Louis Altazan of AGCO Automotive, a maintenance and repair business, said drivers have come in with complaints about their vehicles not starting right in the morning. Altazan said complaints have come from people who bought gas at a number of different stations, as far away as New Orleans and Slidell.
Exxon makes gasoline for a number of other companies at its Baton Rouge refinery, not just for stations that carry its brand name — blending the fuel to the specifications of a gasoline distributor, Altazan said.
"It's a cocktail," he said.
Altazan said he thinks the problem may have to do with some incompatibility in the chemicals in the gasoline.