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Gary Pickering
Site Owner
Posts: 33

In the past few months, there have been rumours of ethanol being used in gasoline and the suggestion that this will cause serious problems/expense for boaters. Does anyone have any insight into the use of ethanol?

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April 1, 2011 at 6:54 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Cameron
Member
Posts: 3

I've read a ton about this on various boater websites in the US and it caused some people quite a bit of concern.

Bayport is still using non-ethanol fuel at this time, but for how much longer is unknown.  They're committed to keeping it like this as long as they can.

I heard of problems that CO2 Inflatables had with Yamaha when ethanol started to be used in Ontario.  They had trouble identifying the problem at first.  The issue is that ethanol fuel was gelling (or gumming up) fuel injectors if it was left to sit for too long (and too long was weeks not months or years).  CO2 recommended that I put in fuel stabilizer with every tank fill up.  I've done that with my dinghy and never had a problem.  Not sure if it's overkill (but a few dollars of insurance hasn't hurt me yet).

The worst stories I heard were of fuel tanks that were no compatible with ethanol.  I don't remember what those were, but the damage was severe in the stories.

Water is also a problem, if it's in your tank.  

If you're at Bayport, I would ask them to get somebody to give your boat a once over before they switch to ethanol just to be sure.


April 7, 2011 at 11:49 AM Flag Quote & Reply

AlexP
Member
Posts: 1

I am concerned about the effects of ethanol on my motor. Can someone provide more information on when Marinas are going to start using this stuff?

April 11, 2011 at 10:22 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Gary Pickering
Site Owner
Posts: 33

Why Ethanol Causes Problems for Boat Engines

Derived from corn in the U.S., gasoline containing ethanol is a blend of ethanol and refined alcohol. The result is an ethanol solvent that can cause several different problems to your boat engine if proper precautions are not taken.

Ethanol is hygroscopic, which means it will attract and attach to any water that gets into the fuel and has the ability to absorb 50 times more water than non-ethanol gasoline. Since boat fuel tanks are vented, condensation and moisture is likely to occur in fuel tanks – particularly when the fuel tank is not full. When the solvent reacts with water it can create sludge in the fuel tank that clogs fuel filters, carburetors and other engine parts.

The ethanol damage can be especially troublesome in older boats with fiberglass fuel tanks made with thophthalic resin. The ethanol can react with the resin in these older fuel tanks and create a sludge build up. In some cases, fuel tanks need to be entirely drained to remove sludge filled fuel. Other boat owners have suffered from performance issues, costly repairs or a completely ruined boat engine.

Potential E15 Issues for Boaters

In 2010, the EPA has proposed increasing the percentage of ethanol from up to 10% (known as E10) to up to 15% (known as E15). Despite initial ruling that the sale of E15 gasoline is restricted to only on-road vehicles model year 2007 and newer, there is still potential for E15 fuel to mistakenly get into boats.

According to the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association (NMMA), “there is significant risk of consumer confusion and misfueling.” Although E15 may not be offered at a fuel dock, millions of smaller boats that may purchase fuel at gasoline stations on land could be at risk. The NMMA is also concerned that E15 will be marketed as a lower cost fuel and boaters may choose fuel based on price without being informed of the potential consequences. Because marine engines have not been tested with E15, the exact implications on boat engines are unknown. However, the impact of E15 is widely expected to be more severe and damaging to both old and new boat engines

Precautions to Protect Your Boat Engine

With proper precaution, many of the boat engine issues caused by ethanol fuel can be mitigated or avoided altogether.

Here are some recommended precautions to deal with ethanol gasoline for E10 or E15:

Refuel often. Ethanol fuel should not sit in a gas tank longer than 90 days, therefore it is important to use fuel and refuel as often as possible.Maintain fuel filters. Changing fuel filters regularly will help keep your carburetors clean and stop engine damaging sludge build-up caused by ethanol.Fuel your boat at marinas. Don’t risk fueling your boat with a higher level of ethanol if E15 becomes available at gasoline stations on land. Fueling your boat at a marina will be safer because E15 will not be approved for sale at a marina.Choose fuel wisely. Although some states have regulations requiring E10 for gasoline, there are marinas that offer ethanol-free fuel. Whenever possible, select ethanol-free fuel for your boat.Sources: National Marine Manufacturer’s Association, Fuel-testers.com, Boating Industry

 

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May 12, 2011 at 11:07 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Gary Pickering
Site Owner
Posts: 33

 

 

More on Ethanol

Winter lay-up, while never much fun for the boat owner, used to be a relatively mundane routine.  In a single day, owners of most mid-size boats could winterize marine engines and generators, add fuel stabilizer, prep fresh water systems, remove summer gear, and prep for storage/shrink wrap.

Come spring, summerization was a simple matter of turning sea cocks, flushing freshwater systems, and loading gear back on board.  With a little coaxing, the mains and genset would fire up, and off we'd go for another season of boating.  That was then...

"Green" Fuels

However, thanks to well-meaning legislators at the federal level pushing the mandate to increase usage of ethanol-blended fuels, an increasing number of America's Boaters are finding themselves with a real mess on their hands when it comes time to summerize.  The headaches caused by ethanol blends can wreak havoc throughout the boating season, as its corrosive effects can end a weekend of fun and sun quicker than a line of summer storms.

You see, a strange thing happened on the way to cleaner, "green" fuels.  While most automobile owners met the move with a collective shrug of the shoulders, many boat owners - especially those who endure long periods of inactivity between their boating weekends - have discovered that ethanol is a killer, and the damage being done to marine engines and their components are the all-too-familiar unintended consequence that frequently accompanies the best of legislative intentions.

 

Ethanol's Problems

What lawmakers failed to recognize is the fact that, unlike automobiles which are fueled with much greater frequency, and  have components designed to withstand the corrosive effects of ethanol blends, boats (especially older models) are an entirely different animal.                                 Maintenance is the key

Boats can often sit for weeks or more with fuel in their tanks.  Ethanol-blended fuel.  Fuel that attracts and absorbs water.  Fuel that can eat away at internal components and even fuel tanks.  Beginning to get the picture?

One of the ironies of ethanol blended fuels in boating is obvious:  as boat owners, we love the water.  The water is what drew us all into boating in the first place.  The  problem is, outside of water jackets, risers, and water pumps, marine engines don't love water; yet ethanol-blends can absorb up to 50 times the water of non-blended gasoline.  Oh, yeah...did we mention that this fuel will sit in a humid, enclosed environment - in the water - for weeks and months at a time?  When ethanol fuel is allowed to sit for extended periods, the water and fuel can separate.  Water in the bottom of your fuel tank, where your fuel lines attach?  Not good.

Another of ethanol's ironies is that we boaters, by nature, are clean freaks.  We spend insane amounts of time cleaning, scrubbing, and buffing.  The alcohol in ethanol is a fantastic solvent.  The problem is, it is floating around in your fuel tanks, fuel lines, carbeurators, and fuel injection systems.  Residue in fuel tanks and in fuel lines is easily stripped away by ethanol's powerful effects.  Those foreign bodies are then free to float around in your fuel system, doing whatever damage they can inflict.

Potential problems:

- Deterioration of hoses and seals

- Storage life of approximately 90 days

- Decrease in fuel's octane

- Deterioration of fuel tanks

- Clogging of fuel lines, filters, and carburetors/fuel injection systems

Fuel Management

So...enough about the negative effects of ethanol blends.  For the foreseeable future, they are here to stay.  So what do we do about them?  How do we prevent ethanol-related issues from keeping us at the dock, while everyone else is out on the water?

The most effective tool is proactive management of your fuel, and your fuel system.  Your local marine maintenance professionals are well-versed in the problems created by ethanol blends, and have become equally adept at providing solutions to limit its potential harm. Be sure to consult the pros when it comes to managing your fuel system.  In the meantime, here is a short list of suggestions to keep you on the water this summer.

To avoid ethanol-related problems:

- Install a high-quality water-separating fuel filter, and change it frequently

- Burn your fuel, rather than allowing it to sit for extended periods

- Utilize a proven fuel additive/conditioner

- Buy a fuel tester

- Purchase fuel at marinas that sell non-blended fuel

 

The good news is, the marine industry is not taking all of this lying down.  The National Marine Manufacturers Association, the chief lobbying organization of the marine industry, filed a December, 2010 suit in federal court, seeking to block an increase in ethanol concentrations to 15% from     Keep a simple fuel tester on board                  its current level of 10%.

Until the efforts of organizations like the NMMA and others are rewarded with an ethanol exemption similar to the aviation industry's, it will be up to America's Boaters to manage our fueling habits, and maintain our fuel systems.  None of us want to be stuck at the dock because we didn't take the time to deal with our ethanol reality!

 

 

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July 2, 2011 at 8:26 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Gary Pickering
Site Owner
Posts: 33

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy recently released the results of two studies on the effects of using fuel that is 15 percent ethanol in volume in marine engines, and the reports showed significant problems with outboard, sterndrive and inboard engines, the National Marine Manufacturers Association reported.

The studies were conducted on engines provided by Volvo Penta and Mercury Marine. The Energy Department approved the final analysis of the results.

Results of the reports show severe damage to engine components and an increase in exhaust emissions, reinforcing the recreational boating industry’s concern that E15 is not a suitable fuel for marine engines, the NMMA said.

Emissions and durability testing compared E15 fuel and fuel containing zero percent ethanol and examined exhaust emissions, exhaust gas temperature, torque, power, barometric pressure, air temperature and fuel flow.

Specifically, the report showed degraded emissions performance outside of engine certification limits, as well as increased fuel consumption on the engines using E15 fuel. In separate testing on engine durability, each tested engine showed deterioration, including two of the three outboard engines, with damage severe enough to prevent them from completing the test cycle.

The E0 test engines did not exhibit any fuel-related issues, the NMMA said.

“Current proposals by the ethanol industry to increase the amount of ethanol in gasoline should seriously concern all boaters and owners of other small engine equipment,” NMMA president Thom Dammrich said in a statement. “Although NMMA strongly supports renewable fuels as a means to reduce America’s dependence on foreign sources of oil and improve the environment, there is growing evidence that ethanol is not the answer to America’s energy challenge.”

For more information, please read the full versions of the Emissions and Durability test or the Fuel Endurance test from the Energy Department.

 

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November 1, 2011 at 7:48 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Gary Pickering
Site Owner
Posts: 33

In the few years since ethanol began to be widely used in the United States, a lot has been written about its properties, the problems it's created, and how to best cope with its possible effects. Some of the advice has been based on science, some on hearsay. While E10 is not an ideal fuel – and E15 could cause serious problems for marine engines – at least a few myths about ethanol have arisen with the potential to do more harm than good:


Myth #1: Ethanol-enhanced gasoline (E10) loses octane much faster than regular gasoline.

Many mechanics believe that octane loss during winter storage could be great enough to damage an engine when it's run in the spring. These same mechanics will often recommend leaving the tank almost empty so that fresh gasoline can be added in the spring to raise depleted octane levels. While all gasoline loses octane as it ages, ethanol-enhanced gasoline loses octane at about the same rate as regular gasoline, according to Jim Simnick, a technical advisor at BP Global Fuels Technology, and Lew Gibbs, a senior engineering consultant and Chevron Fellow. The two men have over 75 years of combined experience working with gasoline and both agree that the loss of octane over the winter would not be sufficient to damage an engine. Note, however, to keep any gasoline, including E10, as fresh as possible; they said it's good practice to always add fuel stabilizer — an antioxidant — whenever the boat will be idle for long periods.The recommendation to leave a tank mostly empty is bad advice; it could significantly increase the amount of water that gets into the tank. When enough water enters through the vent, the ethanol will separate ("phase separate") from the gasoline. Leaving a tank mostly empty does three things to increase the chances of phase separation:

It increases the volume of open space in the tank (its "lung capacity") so it can "breathe in" damaging moist air. An almost-empty tank leaves more space on tank walls for condensation to form. Leaving less gasoline in the tank means there will be less ethanol to absorb the condensation.

It's interesting to note that in areas of the Midwest that have been dealing with E10 for over a decade, topping off tanks is common practice. (As an alternative, completely emptying the tank would eliminate any chance of phase separation.)

If phase separation occurs, the highly corrosive ethanol/water mixture will settle to the bottom of the tank and remain there even after fresh fuel is added in the spring. The only way to remedy the problem would then be to drain the tank and add fresh gasoline. The best way to avoid phase separation over the winter (aside from emptying the tank) is to leave the tank 95-percent full (which allows for expansion) so that there's less moist air in the tank, less space for condensation to collect, and more gasoline to absorb whatever moisture does accumulate.

 

Myth #2: E10 attracts water, so it's important to install a water separator to prevent the water reaching the engine.

Mercury Marine, which recently hosted a Webinar on ethanol myths, noted that ethanol does not "grab water molecules out of the air." It is hydrophilic, which means ethanol holds water. With regular gasoline (E0) as well at E10, the primary cause of water collecting in tanks is condensation on tank walls. But unlike E0, which can absorb almost no moisture, E10 can hold up to half of one percent of water by volume, and the water molecules will dissolve in the fuel. The "solubilized" water will bypass the water separator and burn harmlessly through the engine. Only if phase separation were to occur would a water separator do its job, but by then the fuel itself would be the problem. The phase-separated water/ethanol mixture would settle on the bottom of the tank near the fuel pick-up and would quickly stall out or even damage your engine. And because ethanol is used to boost octane, the remaining (low-octane) gasoline at the top of the tank would also have the potential to damage your engine.Note, however, that a fuel filter (10-micron) is essential to keep gunk from reaching your engine. Ethanol is a solvent that dissolves resins, rust, and dirt that have accumulated on older tank walls. Especially when you first make the transition to E10, it's important to carry spare filters and a galvanized bucket to store used filters prior to disposal. Even in new engines and tanks, E10 will sometimes form a mysterious gooey substance that will also clog filters. Richard Kolb, the manager of Emissions and Regulations for Volvo Penta, believes the goo is caused by water mixing with one or more of the 108 approved compounds that can be used in gasoline. These compounds vary among suppliers, so one solution is to change to a different brand of gasoline. Another is to use carburetor cleaner, which he says has sometimes remedied the problem.

 

Myth #3: Certain additives can prevent phase separation?

Both Gibbs and Simnick said that the additives that eliminate water may work incrementally to protect against phase separation, but Joe Simnick stressed that no additives will stand up to a good slug of water. Lew Gibbs added that the best way to prevent phase separation in E10 is to "keep it dry, keep it dry, keep it dry." That means keeping the tank filled to prevent condensation. Mercury Marine has also noted that, contrary to statements made by some companies that produce fuel additives, there are no additives that can make stale or phase-separated gasoline usable.E10 is certainly not as trouble-free as E0, especially the first few tankfulls. But for newer engines, those built after about 1991, there's no reason the initial problems can't be overcome. No less an authority than Mercury Marine says, "After the transition period from E0, E10 may actually be a superior marine fuel as it tends to keep low levels of water moving through the fuel system, keeping thesystem 'dry.'"

 

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December 3, 2011 at 5:52 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Jeff Damude
Member
Posts: 2

Gary Pickering at April 1, 2011 at 6:54 PM

In the past few months, there have been rumours of ethanol being used in gasoline and the suggestion that this will cause serious problems/expense for boaters. Does anyone have any insight into the use of ethanol?

The largest problem with Ethenol is it has moisture absorbing agents in it. Like brake fluid, if it is left open to the atmoshere, it will absorb the moisture in the air. Once the ethanol absorbs the moisture and starts to ball up, it will not pass through the injector screens. More than ever, people must start believing in fuel system additives.

March 1, 2012 at 7:28 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Jeff Damude
Member
Posts: 2

Gary Pickering at April 1, 2011 at 6:54 PM

In the past few months, there have been rumours of ethanol being used in gasoline and the suggestion that this will cause serious problems/expense for boaters. Does anyone have any insight into the use of ethanol?

The largest problem with Ethenol is it has moisture absorbing agents in it. Like brake fluid, if it is left open to the atmoshere, it will absorb the moisture in the air. Once the ethanol absorbs the moisture and starts to ball up, it will not pass through the injector screens. More than ever, people must start believing in fuel system additives.

March 1, 2012 at 7:28 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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June 4, 2012 at 11:08 PM Flag Quote & Reply

qitom
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