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http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-bp-recalls-unleaded-gas-sold-in-chicago-area-20120820,0,4924927.story

By Robert Channick

Tribune reporter

5:12 p.m. CDT, August 21, 2012
A 50,000-barrel batch of gasoline, or 2.1 million gallons, has been recalled by BP's Whiting refinery after hundreds of reports of hard-starting and stalling vehicles from motorists flooded Northwest Indiana repair shops the past few days.

The fouled fuel has made its way into another state. A BP spokesman confirmed late Tuesday afternoon that a small amount of contaminated premium and mid-grade fuel was trucked to the Milwaukee area and sold between Monday evening and Tuesday morning before the company halted sales.
Previously, BP said the contaminated fuel was contained to Northwest Indiana and just across the borders into Illinois and Michigan.

BP issued a statement Tuesday, saying the regular grade gasoline was blended at its Whiting storage terminal between Aug. 13 and 17, and contained a "higher than normal level of polymeric residue." The fuel was distributed at BP stations and other retailers in the last week.

Affected motorists are instructed to call BP's customer hot line at 800-333-3991, but customers have reported difficulty getting through to a representative. Gas claims may also be filed at [email protected].

"The service line did get an extremely high call volume this morning, " said Scott Dean, a Chicago-based BP spokesman. "We're adding additional operators and staff to reduce hold times."

Car dealerships and service shops throughout Northwest Indiana have been fielding hundreds of calls, while service bays are jammed with repairs, which primarily consist of draining the fuel tank and cleaning the fuel system. Costs have ranged from $300 to $1,200.

Bill Vlietstra, service manager at Schepel Buick GMC in Merrillville, said the dealership has received hundreds of calls since Saturday. Those who just topped off their tanks are told to add fuel cleaner and fresh gas. Anyone who filled up with the contaminated gas is advised to bring the car in for fuel flushing.

More than a hundred customers have done that since Monday, according to Vlietstra.

"A few of them, we have towed in," Vlietstra said. "We just line them up outside and get to them as we can."

Dean said customers with approved claims will be reimbursed for their repairs.

Several gas stations have been shut down in Northwest Indiana while their storage tanks are drained and fresh fuel added, Dean said. The problem has also crossed state lines into Illinois and Michigan.

"We definitely now are seeing a handful of customer complaints along the Illinois and Michigan border," Dean said. "It's not unusual for those tankers to cross the border, particularly if it's one of the communities right on the border."

Of the approximately 4,500 calls and 800 emails received by BP as of Tuesday afternoon, Dean said about 95 percent of the gas-related complaints were from Lake County, Ind.

Dean said it is unclear how much of the contaminated fuel made it into gas tanks.

"We're still trying to account for exactly how much has been combusted," he said. "We are getting loads back and we're doing that as quickly as possible."

[email protected] | Twitter @RobertChannick
 

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We had something similar in UK acouple of years back when one 'blending center' was shipping gas out to supermarket gas stations.

The consequences were that many vehicles just stopped and had to be towed to the nearest garage. :( :(

The gas had destroyed Lambda sensors and affected CATs. So the bill was HUGE. Tanks had to be drained and bad fuel safely disposed, O2 sensors replaced, sometimes with CATs and then a full diagnostics check.

Those who could prove their vehicle had just stopped and broke down after filling up, got compensated - there were many!

In my case I was in my car on a long trip having gassed up from an empty tank before the journey. I noticed nothing cruising at 70mph for 2 hours. Then I throttled back for the off ramp and the car would only drive at 20 mph and was hard to keep idling. The gas tank was nearly empty and I managed to get an O2 sensor near my stopover. I filled the tank with fresh gas (still running bad) and put in a new O2 sensor which took me about an hour. I could have just had the car towed to a garage and done without it for a day, but did not know then about the bad gas until stories came out later. I got back my costs and a tank full of gas.

If you get in a similar position, let somebody else do the work and keep all your receipts.

From the article posted it looks like they might be keeping quiet about the O2 sensor and CAT. If you are in this situation, have the garage check the O2 sensor and CAT for efficiency. Do not settle for just a fresh tank of gas!



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Considering BP stations add ethanol to their gas, it shouldn't be used in our Beemer's anyways. At least, not the K12GT! I used it for all of 1,000 miles before the bike started stalling out. After consulting my local dealer and a few others, the ethanol is what seems to have caused my woes. After switching to Top Tier gas, all is well :)
 

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Evidence?

mhadden said:
Considering BP stations add ethanol to their gas, it shouldn't be used in our Beemer's anyways. At least, not the K12GT! I used it for all of 1,000 miles before the bike started stalling out. After consulting my local dealer and a few others, the ethanol is what seems to have caused my woes. After switching to Top Tier gas, all is well :)
I am always curious when I see posts like this in this day and age. Until proven otherwise, based on manufacturer guidance plus the many years of successful use of ethanol in automobiles, I consider blaming ethanol a cop out used by lazy mechanics and uninformed consumers. I have heard the same accusations for 30+ years. If BMW engineers haven't figured out which materials can be safely used with ethanol, they are incompetent, lazy, evil, or some combination of the three. Some components of pre-1980 bikes (or thereabouts) may be susceptible to ethanol-related problems. Ethanol is used worldwide, and car manufacturers solved the problem many years ago.

I have sent a letter to Motorcycle Consumer News requesting an objective analysis, since MCN repeats the same old wives' tales about the evils of ethanol. For the record, I have used ethanol-containing gasolines for 30+ years in cars, trucks and 2 K-bikes (1988 and 2003). No fuel related issues after hundreds of thousands of miles.

I may be entirely wrong, but the truth is that ethanol is a political and not a technical issue. There must be objective data somewhere. If you have it, share it.
 

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I stand corrected - as mentioned by JCW, Top Tier gas can contain ethanol (up to 10%). It was my previous understanding that they did not contain ANY ethanol.

I'm well aware of BMW's notice back in 1984 about ethanol in fuels and that up to a 10% mixture (i.e. E10) is okay. But again, as I found out recently, using these ethanol-containing fuels, mostly purchased from BP and Marathon, seemed to have caused my stalling issues I was having (see my thread. After consulting with my selling dealer, it was stated that the K bikes, in particular, seem to have a lower tolerance for ethanol fuel, and that using strictly Top Tier gas (in addition to a adding fuel system cleaner for a few tanks) would likely solve my issue. If not, something else was to blame. So I followed their advice - low and behold, switching to TT gas (using the few Mobil or Shell stations we have in NW IN) and the cleaner helped. I have not had a stalling/reduced power issue since.

But after the recall of BP fuel, it made the gears in my head start turning and wondered if it was very possible that it was more than 50k gallons and had been occurring for several weeks prior (since I mostly fueled up at BP's, since several are alongside my daily commute) and may have contributed to my problem.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
as performance of these bikes increases and the "safety margin" of the engine narrows, small changes are having bigger effects.

sky high compression ratios, returnless fuel systems, knock sensors, etc are likely more sensitive to changes in fuel quality.

imo, it's not just an issue with seals compatibility.

personally, if there was an ethanol free gas station near me i would definitely try it out.
 

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JCW said:
as performance of these bikes increases and the "safety margin" of the engine narrows, small changes are having bigger effects.

sky high compression ratios, returnless fuel systems, knock sensors, etc are likely more sensitive to changes in fuel quality.

imo, it's not just an issue with seals compatibility.

personally, if there was an ethanol free gas station near me i would definitely try it out.
I respect your opinion, but what is the safety margin breach? What damage has been caused? It is my understand that the Indy 500 was run with ethanol fuel this year (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1193140-indy-500-2012-first-alternative-fuel-race-is-huge-step-for-motorsports). Are K-bikes more highly tuned and sensitive than Indy cars? If so, I submit that it is bad engineering to sell a street bike that won't run without damage on common "street" fuel. I will concede that MPG may be less, and possibly performance, but I have seen people with empty tanks ride away from ethanol-containing gas. We need a more realistic perspective.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
I understand the skepticism from both sides. I, too, like to see the proof.
I read somewhere something to the effect that too many people put too much emotional energy into disliking it.
:)


off the top of my head, I recall that...

ethanol, while higher in octane, has a much lower specific output- hence the lower mpg

also ethanol is much more hygroscopic than fuel. absorbing water can cause corrosion over time.

ethanol is also not as good a lubricant and is tough on valves and valve seats

ethanol falsely increases the O2 sensor readings making the engine run leaner leading to drivability problems.


Here's an article outlining an experiment of ethanol blends and engine durability.
http://www.crcao.org/reports/recentstudies2012/CM-136-09-1B Engine Durability/CRC CM-136-09-1B Final Report.pdf


Do I think ethanol problems are blown out of proportion? Probably yes.

Would I run non ethanol gas if I had the choice? Most likely yes (depending on the price)


All that said, I am not an engineer nor a mechanic.
And this thread wasn't started about ethanol. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I submit that the problem isn't E10 or the inability to make a vehicle run on E10. It's the switching from ethanol blend to regular fuel and back again.

in some ways you can say indycars are tuned and built to the fuel specs. This year they will be built and tuned for ethanol.

in some ways you can say most cars and motorcycles are tuned and built for regular fuel. and tolerate ethanol blends.

if they were built specifically for ethanol fuel, they might run different fuel maps, more durable valves and valve seats, maybe some type of water separator in the fuel system like boats. Maybe that's what the E85 cars are.

I'm just rambling now, so good night. :)
 

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I do not doubt that most 'basic' combustion engine designs would 'run' on anything that can be compressed and exploded in a cylinder.

However, most modern engines are high compression to achieve efficiency and run entirely at the mercy of a fuel injection system mapped to expect a particular type of fuel. In addition as I said at the top of the thread, engines now have expensive catalytic converters and O2 sensors. If O2 sensors stop working, the fuel injection system will not run correctly. Most newer engines incorporate anti-knock sensors to compensate ignition timing for lower octane fuels. K motors do not have anti knock sensors.

If you have no choice and have to run on this type of gas, then changing the engine timing as a first step (less advance) and then lowering the compression ratio (and performance) could be only way to go. That would involve re-mapping the ECU chip and a thorough research into the life of the CAT and O2 sensor for that fuel type.

Look at what happened to the high end 98 Octane gas. They took out the lead tetra-ethyle and the substitute was less effective at protecting valves and seats, so they burned. Older 'high performance' vehicles using the new fuels either had to run with expensive additives or have modified thicker cylinder head gaskets fitted to lower compression.

Engines are now manufactured with harder valves and seats, knock sensors are fitted and the efi programming modified to run reliably with the modern lower octane fuels. We have an old engine design putting it close to a 'classic' vehicle. As more vehicles are made compatible with these alternative fuels and newer engines designed to run on them, our 'classic' engines may become obsolete, unless changes are made to the engines to allow them to run on new fuels.

I remember the oil companies saying that lead free fuels would be compatible, but when some very expensive high performance car models tried using it, they burned out valves and pistons.



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Discussion Starter #12
voxmagna said:
I do not doubt that most 'basic' combustion engine designs would 'run' on anything that can be compressed and exploded in a cylinder.

However, most modern engines are high compression to achieve efficiency and run entirely at the mercy of a fuel injection system mapped to expect a particular type of fuel. In addition as I said at the top of the thread, engines now have expensive catalytic converters and O2 sensors. If O2 sensors stop working, the fuel injection system will not run correctly. Most newer engines incorporate anti-knock sensors to compensate ignition timing for lower octane fuels. K motors do not have anti knock sensors.

If you have no choice and have to run on this type of gas, then changing the engine timing as a first step (less advance) and then lowering the compression ratio (and performance) could be only way to go. That would involve re-mapping the ECU chip and a thorough research into the life of the CAT and O2 sensor for that fuel type.

Look at what happened to the high end 98 Octane gas. They took out the lead tetra-ethyle and the substitute was less effective at protecting valves and seats, so they burned. Older 'high performance' vehicles using the new fuels either had to run with expensive additives or have modified thicker cylinder head gaskets fitted to lower compression.

Engines are now manufactured with harder valves and seats, knock sensors are fitted and the efi programming modified to run reliably with the modern lower octane fuels. We have an old engine design putting it close to a 'classic' vehicle. As more vehicles are made compatible with these alternative fuels and newer engines designed to run on them, our 'classic' engines may become obsolete, unless changes are made to the engines to allow them to run on new fuels.

I remember the oil companies saying that lead free fuels would be compatible, but when some very expensive high performance car models tried using it, they burned out valves and pistons.
Agreed.

The changes made from the 1200 to 1300 addressed driveability and fueling problems likely from lower quality fuels. The duration of the exhaust cam was shortened from 268 to 250's to reduce intake charge contamination (at the expense of top end all out power). the cylinder head was modified to promote mixing of the air fuel mixture. the multitude of fuel and ignition map upgrades to the k1200 ecu's were to try and solve these driveability issues.


Just a minor correction, the k1200/1300 r and s and gt's are equipped with knock sensors. two of them. one between cylinders 2/3 and 3/4. But these ONLY operate in all cases to further reduce power and performance.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I have always wondered whether swapping a k1200 exhaust cam into the k1300 engine would yield even more top end power. :yeow:
 

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Some Hardleys have sequential ignition and knock sensors, which in theory gives them a more advanced engine design........but K bikes still seem faster in most colors! :) :)

If they made it 1300cc 'detuned' to run on rubbish fuels, they may have used the same crank and rods etc, just larger bores and pistons. Fine for a 'detuned' motor to run on rubbish gas. After all it could not have a lower spec. than the earlier K1200.

Put back K1200 spec cams, compression, timing advance and gas up with 98 Octane and the extra power might be too much!

The one thing that seems to have changed in car engine design to get better fuel economy, lower emissions and smaller more powerful and lighter engines has been the fitting of turbo chargers.

BMW should have considered stopping at 1200cc, updating the Motronic Efi to sequential with knock sensors and fitting a turbo charger. Much cheaper cost effective option compared to tooling up for all the new larger engines they now have to make.



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Consensus?

So, is there agreement one way or another? It seems that the "objective" data results seem to be related to who sponsors the study:

http://epa.gov/otaq/regs/fuels/rfg/waterphs.pdf
http://growthenergy.org/images/reports/minnesota_e20execsumm.pdf

The original issue, I thought, was: does ethanol damage our bikes in any way? If we just ride, don't race, and agree that we get less MPG, is there a problem?

In the absence of a truly objective study, I still submit that post 1980 bikes should be healthy, happy, and suffer no ill effects using E10 gasoline. If not, the engineers have been asleep at the wheel for many years (ESPECIALLY considering the price of a BMW).

What we have "heard" or what we think doesn't count.
 

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I have put a lot of E10 through my K1200RS, and yes a lot of it regular.I'd even put pre-mix gas in that bike if that could keep me going. Very often all that is available in the more remote places in the West is E10 regular. And even here in BC, premium is not always available in the boonies, up north where it all comes from the same refinery, very good chance it contains Ethanol. Never has my bike given me any signs of power degradation but for one tank of high altitude gasoline in Colorado and that could have been a fluke.

Lower fuel economy that's for sure using E10 but damages....no signs of that.

Cripes if I spent time on the road worrying about the fuel and chasing the top-tier stations, I'd never get anywhere and probably run out of gas quite often. Once was enough last week....good thing my camping stove burns gasoline.:teeth

But my family back east are long time dairy farmers on my mother's side, I don't like Ethanol mostly because of what it did to the price of cattle feed and to our food staples in general. Corn....should be eaten or drunk, not burned in our engines for political reasons.
 

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Disadvantages to ethanol fuel blends when used in engines designed exclusively for gasoline include lowered fuel mileage, metal corrosion, deterioration of plastic and rubber fuel system components, clogged fuel systems, fuel injectors, and carburetors, delamination of composite fuel tanks, varnish buildup on engine parts, damaged or destroyed internal engine components, water absorption, fuel phase separation, and shortened fuel storage life
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_ethanol_fuel_mixtures

It may be some years before problems are seen!



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Ethonal in the gas

I can say from personal experiance that ethonal is nothing more than a filler that kills gas mileage and ruins carburators on any small engines. I took the carb from my sons mower to the repair shop and after talking to the mechanic decided to stop using ethonal gas. He said the ethonal gas was the best thing for his repair buisness ever. He never had more buisness than he has now. All of it was fuel system problems. "O" rings gaskets and other small parts. My tractor, k75 motorcycle (BMW) and cars were stopping, stalling and more when I started using ethonal but after going with the ethonal free gas those problems have gone away. If you want to use it, that's your choice but as for me, no more ethonal!!
 

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A motor vehicle is a complex assembly of parts all needing to be compatible with the fluids in the motor. Brake and transmission systems are the same.

If you take a BMW K series bike with an old engine design, then backwards compatibility with new formulations of anything cannot be guaranteed. There is a further complication that tests done on parts give one result, but tests repeated on parts which have been exposed to other 'fluids' with thousands of miles use may give different results.

If I bought a new vehicle with a big sticker on it that said 'compatible with XYZ fuel I might trust it. But not in my 1997 K.

I might be tempted to switch to something new and take a risk if my miles per gallon increased by 20%. But I gather Ethanol mixes are reducing mpg. :(



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