The Kansas City Star: Shell joins clean fuel program: “Shell gasoline is the latest to meet a new fuel standard meant to ensure that engine parts are kept clean. The voluntary standard, called Top Tier, is being pushed by the automakers BMW, Honda, Toyota and General Motors over concerns about an overall decline of cleaning additives in gasoline in the last several years.” (ShellNews.net) 23 Dec 04
By STEVE EVERLY
Posted on Thu, Dec. 23, 2004
• Shell Oil has joined the Top Tier program, designed to increase the amount of cleaning additives in gasoline.
• The program, which also includes QuikTrip, ChevronTexaco and ConocoPhillips, has generated some resistance because it is being pushed by automakers.
Shell gasoline is the latest to meet a new fuel standard meant to ensure that engine parts are kept clean.
The voluntary standard, called Top Tier, is being pushed by the automakers BMW, Honda, Toyota and General Motors over concerns about an overall decline of cleaning additives in gasoline in the last several years. The automakers say that that has led to more vehicles with fouled engines, which harm performance and fuel economy.
A Shell Oil Co. official said the company saw a need for the Top Tier standard, which requires a higher level of cleaning additives than federal regulators now require. The company's testing showed that much of the gasoline on the market was at or near the federal standard and that that often was inadequate in keeping engines clean.
Mark Henry, fuels manager for Shell, said Top Tier gasoline was “something we can support.”
Gasoline meeting the Top Tier standard now is available at all Shell stations nationwide. In addition, Shell is supplying Top Tier fuel to remaining Texaco stations in the Midwest, including the Kansas City area. ChevronTexaco, which also has met the Top Tier standard, is supplying the other Texaco stations in the Southeast and the West Coast, as well as all U.S. Chevron stations.
In the last few months, ConocoPhillips, which sells fuel under the Conoco, Phillips 66 and 76 brands, has met the Top Tier standard. And Entec, a small chain based in Alabama, also has met the standard. QuikTrip, a convenience-store chain that is a leading gasoline marketer in the Kansas City area, was one of the first to officially meet the Top Tier standard and has advertised its gas as “gourmet” fuel.
“We are delighted to see more and more companies certified for Top Tier,” said Andrew Buczynsky, a GM fuel engineer.
The Top Tier standard debuted earlier this year, but how widespread it will become remains unclear. It has stirred animosity in the oil industry over what some view as the unilateral move by the automakers to implement the standard.
The American Petroleum Institute has said that more input from the oil industry was needed. The Society of Independent Gas Marketers Association is providing information about the program to its members who may want their fuel to qualify for Top Tier status, but the group also has qualms about how the program started.
“Our stance is we generally do not like fuel standards that are not adopted through a consensus process … and Top Tier doesn't meet that standard,” said Tom Osborne, a spokesman for the independent marketers group.
Some companies appear to be hesitant about participating. ExxonMobil Corp. said Monday that it had not made a decision about Top Tier, although it is certain its gasoline would meet the standard. BP Amoco did not return a telephone call seeking comment, although earlier in the year it said it had not made any decision about Top Tier. Valero Corp., a large independent refiner that also markets gasoline under the Valero and Diamond Shamrock brands, said it was evaluating the program.
For the Top Tier program, oil companies test their fuel to meet specific standards to keep deposits from forming on valves, fuel injectors and cylinders. They also agree to allow samples to be taken for testing to ensure that the standard continues to be met. All of a company's gasoline grades at all its stations have to meet the Top Tier standard.
Top Tier is meant to reverse what automakers say has been a roughly 50 percent decline in the use of the additives since the mid-1990s, when the Environmental Protection Agency's standard for cleaning additives was enacted. That standard turned out to be a lower amount than what was in much of the gasoline sold at the time.
The federal standard, say the four automakers pushing Top Tier, often is inadequate for keeping engines clean and will be even more so with new vehicles now being built to meet tougher environmental regulations. The EPA recently said it thought the standard was sufficient.
In a presentation last month at the Society of Independent Gas Marketers Association's annual convention in New Orleans, representatives of the automakers said concerns about engine deposits and the need to improve gasoline quality had been made to industry groups and testing organizations at least back to June 2002.
Henry, the Shell Oil manager, said about 60 percent of gasoline sold nationwide was at or near the EPA standard for cleaning additives that the automakers considered insufficient. Henry said other tests and studies had shown that the gasoline with insufficient additives can contribute to engine problems in a range of vehicles, old and new, from domestics to imports, sedans to sport-utility vehicles.
“This is a challenge we have for all vehicles,” he said.
Shell's regular and midlevel gasoline grades contain about double the amount of cleaning additives required by the EPA, and premium grades contain about five times the amount. The Top Tier program, the automakers say, is designed so all grades of gas that are Top Tier-certified will keep engines clean.
That is a good thing, said Mike Right, a spokesman for AAA-Auto Club of Missouri, which has seen serious mechanical problems caused by poor quality gasoline.
“We are delighted to see more and more companies certified for Top Tier,” he said.
To reach Steve Everly, call
(816) 234-4455 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.