What's In Your Gas? - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

02/14/05 - Lufkin

What's In Your Gas?

by Stuart Burson

It's a product that none of us can't do without. Gasoline is essential in getting us to work, school, and countless other destinations. So that's why we pretty much take for granted that the gas we buy to put in our tanks isn't going to harm our vehicles.

One of the biggest fears for drivers when it comes to gasoline quality is water in the fuel.

"a little bit of water in the system of course the filter is made to take out the water before it gets to the injectors. A whole lot of water can cause a random mis-fire, a check engine light, it can cause damage to the fuel pump, injectors, and it just goes from there." says Rick Young with Al Meyer Ford.

We asked Young if this is a problem he sees here in East Texas.

"Really around the Angelina area yes sir, I have. It's quite common. I don't know why around here we have this but we do."

There's been talk for a number of years that some oil companies or gas stations may "water down" their product. But a representative from the American Petroleum Institute says that's a hard feat to accomplish.

"The idea that you're going to water down your fuel isn't very viable. Water and fuel mix just like your salad dressing and your oil. Your oil and vinegar salad dressing. The oil goes to the top and the vinegar goes to the bottom. And vinegar is effectively water. And so the two don't blend." says Prentis Searls with API.

However, there are ways that water can get into a gas station's underground storage tanks unintentionally.

"Condensation would be the first thing that comes to mind. It's probably the main culprit when it comes to water in gasoline. And that's going to happen. In East Texas the humidity's high and you would expect when that moist vapor or air gets into the big tanks that are underground. Cool, and condensation could occur there and have a buildup of water." says Greg Oliver with Ana-Lab in Kilgore.

There are measures that gas stations take to make sure that the buildup of water in their storage tanks stays at a minimum.

"Our distributor that we buy our gas from once a week on just normal weeks they come in and check each time they make a delivery. But if it's raining they do check more than once a week. And we haven't had a problem in the world because they check so very often with that." says Cecilia Taylor, who owns Gas Express in Nacogdoches county.

Still wondering just how much water may be in our gas? We decided to collect some samples ourselves and have them analyzed for water content. We went to eight different gas stations in Angelina and Nacogdoches county.

We included major brands like Exxon from Polk's, Diamond Shamrock from Okay Food Store, and Shell from Alamo's... all three of which were located on Highway 69 north of Lufkin.

We also took a sample from Conoco at the Brookshire Brothers on Frank Street in Lufkin. We included samples from Chevron on South Street in Nacogdoches, and HEB from University Drive.

We also wanted to include gas from independent dealers, so we visited Gas Express on Highway 59 south of Nacogdoches, and Pal's on Frank Street in Lufkin.

After collecting the gas, we transferred them into small jars and took our samples to a testing facility known as Ana-Lab in Kilgore. There, lab technicians ran tests on our gas to see exactly how much water they contained.

"The test is called Karl Fischer Water, and it tests for water content in substances like oils and gasolines and it's sensitive down to the parts per million level. What we found is that the levels of water in those samples you brought in, the gasoline samples were around the one hundred to two hundred parts per million range... I believe those are typical numbers you'd see in gasoline." says Oliver.

Amounts of water in our samples ranged from sixty five parts per million at Diamond Shamrock, to 197 parts per million found at Exxon. Even that largest amount translates to just 2 one hundredths of one percent. Not exactly what anyone would call a large amount.

So, after analyzing the gas samples we collected from stations in the area, no significant amounts of water were detected.

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