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Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations

The EU has issued directives to increase the uptake of renewable fuels throughout Europe as part of the campaign to slow climate change.The net outcome of these EU directives is the inclusion of bio-ethanol in petrol. At concentrations of less than 5% there was, and still is, no obligation for the petrol pumps to be labelled at point of sale. Permitted ethanol content in petrol to rise from 5% to 10% in 2013 There will be a requirement to continue to offer fuels with a limit of 5% ethanol until 2013. (It is assumed that after this date such fuels will be harder to find and may disappear). Have a look at Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation

Problems with fuel systems in petrol powered vehicles have been reported with ever increasing frequency and these are attributed to ethanol being added to fuel. Problems with tank sealants dissolving, seals swelling, corrosion of tanks and carburettors hot starting problems etc. If you Google this topic you will find lots of forums have threads on this issue. Some people have written/e-mailed oil companies on this issue.

This is a response to query - see greeves-riders for the thread.

Thank you for your e-mail. I contacted our Product Quality Manager again
with your reply and was advised the following.

Govt legislation around bio use is pushing the UK market to universally
contain ethanol at a current level of 5%. Probably by mid next year the EN
228 specification will allow up to 10% ethanol. It's his understanding that
at this elevated treat rate that issues with fibre glass have been seen and
less or none so at 5%. Older fibre glass tanks were implicated, although
this is in dispute as he understand a class action is in place in the US.

Once the UK moves to 10% ethanol in Premium Unleaded the Govt has mandated
Super Unleaded as the protection grade and hence it can contain a max of 5%

Certain of our distribution areas are still ethanol free across the country
for PU though it would be difficult to list for consumers hence my
suggestion around SU (except for Cornwall and much of Devon), we certainly
have no plans for further introduction into SU over the next couple of

I hope it helps

Best wishes

Zsolt Móricz
UK and Ireland Customer Care

Here's another report found here.

Here is an e mail that a friend sent to Shell that is of interest.

Dear Sir / Madam,                         
  I have been a user of your petrol and oil  products for over 40 years or more.
In that time I am pleased to say that I have had very few problems other than engine "pinking" problems 
as your fuel anti knock "quality" has diminished with the loss of 5 Star and the introduction of 
"Unleaded". However, I seem to be encountering more than normal examples of excessive  fuel system 
degradation / contamination, in my Jaguars, and MGB and also some  other classic cars that I get 
involved with that belong to friends. Carburettor diaphragms and some other rubber parts have 
failed ---gone  hard and then cracked. Also the "slosh" tank sealant used on fuel tanks seems to 
be coming adrift and contaminating the fuel lines and filters.

I have been told that Shell [and other petrol companies] have been adding  an extra ingredient called 
Ethanol , and calling the petrol "Bio fuel"

This doesn`t mean much to me as a customer because there is nothing on the forecourt pumps to say which 
fuels have been tampered with. Could this additive be responsible for the type of fuel system damage 
I am seeing on all but the more modern cars?

Two questions.
Firstly, how can I overcome the problem?
Secondly,  in the event of, say, an engine fire, due to abnormally rapid degradation of fuel system 
components, where does "Product Liability" lie?-------with the car manufacturer, the component 
manufacturer or the fuel producer?

Can you please enlighten me? or at least identify the pumps dispensing these petrols.

Kind Regards,

In answer to your question yes petrol fuel does contain upto 5% ethanol as a 
bio component which undoubtedly cause issues with rubber components and seal 
and things such as fibreglass fuel tanks in aviation. This is a government 
legislative requirement known as the renewable fuels transport obligation 
(RTFO) which was on introduced on 1st April 2009 in the UK, and as 
consequence covers all forecourt fuels of all manufacturers and requires 
their fuels to contain an aggregate of 5% Bio content which is Ethanol in 
petrol fuel and FAME  (Fatty Acid Methyl Ester) in Diesel Fuels.
There will be no liability with the fuel manufacturer as all our petrol 
fuels comply with the BS EN 228 which allows upto 5% ethanol content in 
gasoline fuel. All major manufacturuers have tested fuels upto 10% without 
issue. In terms of vintage cars, there are currently no fuels available 
which meet the exact specification that the engines were originally designed 
for, so it is very much incumbent on the consumer to ascertain that the fuel 
they are suing is 'fit for purpose'

The Issues you raise are certainly real issues for vintage car owners. The 
fuel we sell will continue to comply with the relevant fuel standards and 
specifications as it did previously.  The finished petrol will meet the UK 
gasoline standard EN228, and the maximum amount of ethanol blended into the 
fuel will be in line with this and the RTFO (renewable fuel transport 
obligation - 5% max). However that doesn't really help owners of vintage 
vehicles. There are several things you can do to minimize the effects of 
ethanol. Firstly run a non-alcohol based fuel stabilizer all year round. As 
you say, older engines were designed primarily for straight gasoline, and 
using ethanol without protection may cause corrosion of some metals in the 
engine. It also may damage natural rubber and cork parts. Fuel stabilizers 
(I believe Stabil do a product) contain additives to protect against rust 
and corrosion caused by ethanol fuel blends. If practical install a water 
separation filter and fuel filter, and replace fuel lines, gaskets or 
o-rings with new ethanol resistant materials. Similarly replace the fuel 
tank if necessary with one made from an ethanol resistant material.

In terms of laying up the vehicle; Assuming the above measures are in place 
(I cannot make a laying up procedure if they are not, as it simply would not 
be advisable with fuel containing ethanol), I would suggest filling the fuel 
tank to about 95% of its capacity with fuel, rather than leaving the fuel 
tank low. This minimizes; the tank-breathing effect, the loss of volatile 
components and the ingress of moisture into the fuel tank. The later in 
extreme cases can cause the appearance of free-water in the fuel.

If a fuel is to be stored in a motor vehicle fuel tank, then maintaining 
fuel quality is important in order to maintain good start-up and a good 
level of vehicle drivability. When an engine fails to start after a period 
of lay up, it may be less to do with fuel deterioration, and could be 
related to un-seasonal fuel, which may not be sufficiently volatile to start 
the engine from cold. Non volatile residues are often observed in the fuel 
tank, delivery system and/or carburetors in cases of severe evaporative loss 
of a gasoline. The reside can manifest itself as either a gum or 
lacquer-like film or deposit, or a gel-like substance. This residue would be 
a combination of low-volatility constituents and detergent additives that 
are found in gasoline, but concentrated after evaporation. We do not advise 
storing fuels in vehicles for more than 6 months. You should also take into 
account the differences between summer and winter grades of petrol. Petrol 
has a higher volatility in the winter in order to enable cold starting. For 
this reason it is better to fill the tank with a winter grade fuel (16th 
October - 14th April) rather than a summer grade.

Lubricants and Fuels Technical Services

I did a bit of searching myself and discovered a report called "Assessing compatibility of fuelsystems with bio-ethanol and the risk of carburettor icing." which was written for Department for Transport (DfT) by QinetiQ. You will need Adobe Acrobat to read this report.

Rather than trying to summerise the report which confirms that there will be problems with using higher levels of ethanol in petrol as reported on the various forums. The report considered; fuel filter blockage , galvanic corrosion, enleanment, drivability, deposit formation and material compatibility. I have extracted a few quotes from the report but the report itself is well worth, despite being a bit depressing, the effort to read it in full.

It is widely accepted that vehicles ten years old and older will not be compatible with E10 blends, though of course there will be exceptions to this. There are approximately nine million petrol passenger cars and light duty petrol vehicles in the UK that are ten years old or older, this equates to about 38% of the total petrol vehicle parc [116]. In addition to these vehicles there are thousands of relatively new first generation petrol direct injection vehicles in the UK, the last new vehicle probably being sold in 2007, that are not compatible with E10.

Another quote

If E5 is phased out by 2013 it is expected that the resulting problems will include:
  • increased vehicle maintenance (replacing leaking hoses, cleaning of blocked filters),
  • reduced vehicle life (for example fuel tank beyond economic repair) and
  • possible catastrophic failure (fuel fires due to leaking hoses, piston seizure etc).

Another quote

It should be emphasised that for some older vehicles, of small market value, the required modifications to make the vehicles compatible with E10 or repairs after damage by E10 will be such that the vehicle is beyond economic repair. Hence the effect of will fall disproportionately on the poorer members of society who run these older vehicles and cannot afford to purchase newer more expensive vehicles.

The final recommendations are

  • Vehicles ten years old or older, carburettored vehicles (including powered two wheelers) and first generation direct injection spark ignition vehicles should not be fuelled on E10 unless the manufacturer can state the vehicles are compatible with E10.
  • The automotive industry should produce a comprehensive list of vehicles compatible with E10. While it is acknowledged that some lists do already exist if in doubt the vehicle operator should seek clarification from the vehicle manufacturer.
  • E5 should not be phased out in 2013, its widespread availability should continue for the foreseeable future.
  • Consideration should be given to maintaining a specification for E0 fuel for historic and vintage vehicles.

I'm not sure that the last two recommendations, which obviously are of interest to Pembleton owners, will happen. I can't see the classic car owners and poor people using old vehicles having much clout with the decision-makers. We must look forward to replacing any GRP, aluminium or steel fuel tanks and fittings, carburettors fuel hoses etc. The long term storage of high ethanol content fuel is, as I understand, not recommended which means draining and disposing of fuel before a winter layup. Maybe the consequence might be more Pembletons on the road thoughout the year!

Having read the report I going to stick to drinking E5 beer rather than the more damaging E10 or higher wines and spirits!
David Tocher

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