Non-ethanol gas available to boaters
OK, I admit it -- I was wrong. A couple of weeks ago I described in this column the problems owners of older boats are having with the 10 percent ethanol/gasoline blend known as E10. Consequently, I noted the Legislature is currently considering a bill that will require refiners to produce an ethanol-free gasoline for marine use.
I then surmised, after referencing several national boating magazine opinions on the subject, that it might be less expensive if boaters just refit their vessels' fuel systems to be compatible with E10 than to force refiners to formulate, transport, store, and dispense an additional fuel mixture.
Apparently, I should have first talked with the refiners on this, because just nine days later the Star-Bulletin carried an article by Kristen Consillio explaining how Aloha Petroleum is now offering non-ethanol-blended gasoline to fuel docks on Oahu and the Big Island.
And, according to Hawaii's Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism, Consillio wrote, non-ethanol fuel is also available on Lanai and Molokai from Maui Oil/Lanai Oil Co. and Senter Petroleum Co., respectively.
It's obvious the refineries don't seem to be inconvenienced at all by supplying boaters with gasoline without ethanol.
For those who may not have heard about the damaging effects of E10 on older boats -- or cars, for that matter -- tests in both Australia and the U.S. have confirmed that ethanol can deteriorate rubber hoses, gaskets, and seals, and even some fiberglass resins.
BoatU.S. -- the largest recreational boat owners association in the country -- released an ethanol warning last fall to boaters who store their boats in the winter months.
As ethanol tends to attract water from the atmosphere and then form two separate solutions in the fuel tank, BoatU.S. recommends limiting the amount of air that can flow into and out of the vent by storing boats with their tanks filled to 95 percent, which leaves room for expansion.
The association adds that while draining fuel tanks would totally eliminate the contamination, it should be considered an extremely dangerous practice.
A report from the National Marine Manufacturers Association seems to confirm some of the anecdotal evidence I have heard here of damage to aluminum fuel tanks due to the water attracted by ethanol.
It notes that while lower levels of ethanol, such as E10, are usually not a problem, ethanol's water issues do create an environment that is conducive to corrosion, particularly when there are dissimilar metals connected to the tank.
Now, of course, Hawaii's boaters can be spared from all of these threats thanks to the proactive actions of our local refiners, and the state is spared a new law as well.
Still, even with non-ethanol fuel aboard, inspecting all fuel lines, filters, tanks, and pumps for any sign of leaking or disintegration should be on every boater's checklist prior to heading out to sea.