ValvTect: Take an active approach to E15

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Teach boaters how to ward off ethanol damage through the use of additives and other measures

E15 is headed our way, but boating can still survive and thrive through education and maintenance, the head of one of the leading fuel additive manufacturers told a group of marine industry journalists.

"I think the marine industry needs to be part of the solution," said Jerry Nessenson, president of ValvTect Petroleum Products, during a Jan. 6 company webinar titled "Marine Fuel Problems   & Solutions."

"We cannot panic people into believing that because of E10 or E15 that they shouldn't buy a boat or use a boat, or that they should sell the boat they have," he says.

The industry needs to adapt fuel for marine use, practice good housekeeping at fuel-selling marinas, implement service procedures and provide consumer education, Nessenson said during the 90-minute interactive session, which included an Internet presentation. About 20 marine journalists and others logged on, including representatives of such magazines as Southern Boating, PassageMaker, Lakeland Boating and MotorBoating.

Nessenson said fuel treatments and maintenance procedures can ward off the damaging effects of ethanol on marine engines and fuel systems. Ethanol can cause engine corrosion and performance problems, deteriorate fuel lines and clog fuel filters.

He used portions of the presentation to promote ValvTect fuel, which is sold at 600 marinas nationwide, and the additive ValvTect Ethanol Gasoline Treatment, which is in ValvTect fuel.

More than a half-dozen other fuel treatments - mostly conditioners and/or stabilizers - also are designed to combat the effects of ethanol. They include Marine Formula Sta-Bil Ethanol Treatment, Star brite's Star Tron Enzyme Fuel Treatment, CRC's Phase Guard 4, Biobor EB from Hammonds Fuel Additives, MDR's E-ZORB and others.

Engine manufacturers also offer treatments, among them Evinrude's 2 Plus 4 Fuel Conditioner and Yamaha's Fuel Conditioner and Stabilizer Plus.

On Oct. 13, the Environmental Protection Agency waived a limitation on the sale of fuel that contains more than 10 percent ethanol for model-year 2007 and newer cars and light trucks. Marine engines are exempted. The waiver does not require that E15 be used, but it could create confusion among the owners of boats and other non-road vehicles and lead to "misfueling," the industry has argued.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association and several other groups filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to challenge the EPA's partial waiver.

The EPA is proposing E15 pump-label rules, including a requirement that the fuel industry specify the ethanol content of gasoline sold to retailers. This, the agency says, will help consumers choose the type of gasoline they need for their engines.

Nessenson said labeling should be prominent and specific. "Caution labels are not enough," he says. "They should say, 'Warning, Do Not Use in Marine Engines.' "

The EPA's approval could cause other problems, including the potential for E15 to be less expensive than E10, a limited availability of E10, "mis-deliveries" of E15 to marinas and fuel reseller liability issues. And fuel pump and fuel hose incompatibility could pose problems.

Nessenson also reviewed the damaging effects of phase separation. This occurs when ethanol-blended fuel surpasses a certain water saturation point and the ethanol and water separate from the gasoline, forming a layer at the bottom of the tank where the fuel exits and heads to the engine. The gasoline remains on top of the ethanol-water layer. Additives can help prevent phase separation, but once it occurs it cannot be reversed, Nessenson says.

"Once that ethanol and water separate [from the gasoline] there really is no safe way and good way of getting it back into solution, regardless of what some additive companies might say," he says.

The webinar also addressed the rising cost of fuel. "Guys, this is not a pretty picture," Nessenson says. "I certainly don't have a solution if prices get up to $4 to $4.50 a gallon at the fuel dock. If we look at what will impact our industry, this is concerning."

Doug Thompson, a freelance writer who represented Southern Boating at the webinar, agreed. "We've got to be able to power our boats," Thompson said during a telephone interview afterward. "So, in a way, the [gas price] issue is just as important as the ethanol issue."

This article originally appeared in the February 2011 issue.

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