Gas Additives: Truth or Myth?
Being one who has indeed spent many hours in exotic locations, cycling bad diesel gas through a make-shift filtration system, I am as susceptible as any person to the promises of a fast and simple remedy to fuel issues, which in turn is just one reason that Practical Sailor has delved so heavily into this subject.
In 2007, Practical Sailor cautioned of the issues associated with ethanol-laced fuel (E10), and in 2008, we tested different products claiming to prevent issues related to ethanol and discovered varying levels of success. In 2009, we looked at dieselfueladditives developed to tackle biological bugs which thrive in diesel. In the summer of 2012, we took a look at gasoline additives, taking a closer look at the standards the market is using to separate the snake oil from the elixirs.
While the ethanol issue has actually delivered a mountain of headaches to boaters, it has fired up a flourishing trade in fuel add-ons. Way back in 2012, at the Miami boat show, I heard Gerald Nessenson, then president of ValvTect Petroleum Products (currently retired), discuss the state of the finished fuel-additive market and exactly what recognized companies like his are actually trying to do to fend off what he really felt were actually unsupportable claims by small upstart companies.
Nessenson was fast to point out that the finished gas at our pumps currently includes a range of additives that handle problems such as corrosion, fuel oxidation, and deposit accumulation. He added that the severe marine environment provides special challenges and cited the well-documented ethanol-related problems in outboards as evidence that seafarers need to be much more cognizant of their choices when choosing, storing, and– if required– treating their fuel.
One of the biggest culprits, Nessenson said, were ethanol treatments which consist of alcohol, glycol, or new “space-age” technology “claiming exceptional efficiency to items that the world’s largest petro-chemical companies create for the world’s refineries and engine manufacturers; but with no industry acceptable documentation.”
The most outright culprits, said Nessenson, are those companies that claim to be able to restore phase-separate ethanol blends. Phase separation occurs when water in the fuel tank is drawn into the gas until a saturation point is reached, at which opportunity the ethanol and the water can drop out of suspension into the bottom of the tank. Ethanol-laced gasoline is actually much more vulnerable to this particular process than non-ethanol blends.
As we continue on with our different studies into fuel add-ons, PS is interested in hearing about your experiences. We would be particularly interested in hearing about anyone having motor damage attributed to utilizing a gas additive or a warranty claim declined on the basis of their using a gas additive.
We advise anyone presently utilizing or considering using a fuel additive to first seek the advice of their engine manufacturer. It will certainly be helpful to have some type of NMMA certification requirements which make the procedure of comparing additives simpler, but given the nature of this particular science, I expect we’ll be trying to sniff out snake oil for some time.
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