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Department of Agriculture & Markets

 
 

Scales Petroleum Quality Programs

Bureau of Weights and Measures


Weights and measures officials throughout the State routinely inspect gasoline and diesel fuels sold for use in motor vehicles. These inspections serve to assure that fuel dispensers are properly labeled and that they meet appropriate quality standards. Each year about 4.5 billion gallons of gasoline is distributed from about 180 distribution terminals and sold from 8,000 retail stations in the State.

New York's labeling requirements for gasoline mirror the requirements of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 16 CFR Section 306. All retail gasoline dispensers must have a label showing the octane rating of the fuel. New York has adopted a similar standard for diesel fuel. Diesel fuels must be labeled with the grade and the cetane rating of the fuel.

New York has adopted the quality standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) for both gasoline and diesel fuel. The ASTM standards are developed by Committee D-2 on Petroleum Products and Lubricants and specify fuels that will perform adequately in most vehicles. The ASTM Committee works on a consensus basis and has members from the petroleum industry, automobile manufacturers, and federal and state regulatory officials.

Fuels must also meet the Clean Air standards of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). These standards specify fuels that will burn cleanly and produce minimal emissions in a properly tuned engine.

Because of the many variables involved with creating a fuel that will perform in a variety of vehicles, conformance with the standards does not guarantee that the fuel will perform acceptably in yours.

The fuel supply in New York is generally very high quality and may come from all over the US and from foreign refiners. The bulk of the fuel enters the State on ships or via pipelines and is stored in distribution terminals in the major cities. Fuels are shipped from these terminals by tanker trucks to smaller distribution terminals or directly to the retail stations. Imports via tanker trucks from Canada and other neighboring states make up the remainder of our supply.

INSPECTION PROGRAMS

State inspectors sample gasoline and diesel fuel at terminals at least monthly. Compliance at the terminals is usually very high as the petroleum industry takes great pains to see that the supply meets the ASTM standards. Municipal inspectors sample gasoline and diesel fuels at the retail stations on a random basis. We try to inspect about 60% of the stations in each municipality each year. In addition to taking the samples, municipal inspectors look for other problems like water contamination. Municipalities are reimbursed by the State for their work under this program.

The terminal and retail samples are shipped to a contract laboratory where they are tested for conformance with the standards. We find only a small fraction of samples that fail to comply with the standards each year.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT GASOLINE!

Gasoline is a mixture of hydrocarbons and other chemicals that is formulated for use in spark ignition engines. The formulation is changed seasonally to provide fuels that will provide for cold weather starting in winter and high temperature performance in the summer.

The grades of gasoline offered at retail stations are based on octane rating. The octane rating is clearly posted on each dispenser using a yellow label with black lettering similar to the example below. The octane rating is a measure of the anti-knock characteristics of the fuel. Knock occurs when the air-fuel mixture in the cylinder spontaneously ignites before the spark plug fires. Knock can be recognized by a pinging or clicking sound in the engine particularly when climbing a steep hill or pulling a heavy load.

Refiners produce gasolines with a range of octane ratings. Most cars will perform acceptably on 87 octane gasoline. Fuels with octane ratings of 89 to 94 resist the tendency to knock, but do not necessarily result in more power or better overall performance.

You should buy gasoline with the octane rating recommended by your automobile manufacturer!

Consult your owner's manual for information on choosing the correct fuel for the model and engine configuration in your car or truck. According to the FTC, buying gasoline with a higher rating may not improve engine performance or increase mileage to justify the increased cost. See one of these sites: High Octane Gas or Saving Money at the Pump.

Learn to look for the Octane Sticker!

87 Octane Sticker Minimum Octane Rating (R+M)/2 Method

Don't be fooled by the product names like premium, platinum, gold, extra, special, etc.

Retailers are free to use any name to market their product. These creative names, like special or high test, don't usually mean a lot. In making value comparisons, always refer to the octane sticker. One company's mid-grade may have the same octane rating than the other guy's premium!

Another consideration in making value comparisons is the additive packages. Major marketers put additives in their fuels to improve performance. While all fuels contain some additives, premium grades may include additional additives that may help your engine with an added cost. Consult the marketer's web site for additional information.

If a retailer sells "gashol", that is gasoline containing up to 10% ethanol or grain alcohol, the pump must be marked with the maximum percentage of alcohol. This information is to alert consumers. Properly formulated blends of alcohol and gasoline will provide equivalent performance to other gasoline in most cars. Check your owner's manual. In addition, the alcohol is a renewable resource that can reduce our dependence on oil reserves.

Gas stations in most parts of New York sell conventional gasoline. Conventional gasoline, often called "unleaded", is sold in those areas of the state that do not have high levels of automobile pollution.

Under the federal Clean Air Act, the EPA requires that certain geographic areas use special gasoline to reduce pollutants from automobile engines. This product is referred to as reformulated gasoline or "reform". All retail stations in Dutchess, Nassau, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties and in the five boroughs of New York City sell these reformulated gasolines. These gasolines contain oxygenated compounds to reduce carbon monoxide emissions. Reformulated gasoline has reduced volatility, reduced amounts of sulfur and benzene, and additional chemicals to add oxygen to help the fuel burn cleanly.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT DIESEL FUEL!

Diesel fuel is a mixture of hydrocarbons and other chemicals that is formulated for use in compression ignition engines. Diesel engines have no spark plug and rely on high pressure in the cylinder to ignite the air-fuel mixture. Diesel fuels generally have more energy content per gallon than gasoline.

The diesel dispenser will be marked with the grade and cetane rating. These two ratings provide a significant amount of information on the fuel. The grade will either be 2-D or 1-D and the cetane rating will be a number between 40 and 50. Most diesel engines will run acceptably on 40 cetane fuels. As with gasoline, consult your owner's manual for information on the grade and cetane rating recommended for your vehicle.

The grade is based on ASTM specifications for diesel fuels. The most common grade is 2-D, which specifies a fuel that is suitable for most cars and trucks. It is preferred because it has a higher energy content than grade 1-D. Because of the higher energy content a 2-D fuel will provide more power and more mileage. However, it does not burn as cleanly or smoothly as a grade 1-D fuel, which is now used in many city busses to reduce smoke in the exhaust and to reduce the odor of diesel exhaust. Consult your owner's manual for information on the best fuel for your vehicle.

The cetane rating is somewhat like the octane rating. It measures engine roughness and the higher the rating the smoother the engine will run. Most fuels have cetane ratings of 40 while some premium diesels may have cetane ratings of 50 or more.

Another concern for diesel users is the cold flow rating of the fuel. In the winter months, distributors of diesel fuels use additives or blend the fuel to enhance the fuel so it will not clog filters under very low temperature conditions. At very low temperatures, waxes, that are naturally present in all diesel fuels, may crystallize and plug filters. The additives or blending agents keep the waxes in solution.

Product Contamination

On rare occasion, gasoline and diesel fuel may gets contaminated. Water is the most common form of contamination observed in gasoline. Water may enter underground storage tanks from many sources, and it does not mix with gasoline. Water sinks to the bottom of the storage tank and may get pumped with the gasoline if the water levels get too high. Retailers are required to limit the water levels in the storage tank to prevent this.

On rare occasions, gasoline and diesel fuel may get mixed together in the distribution system. The resulting fuel may not suitable for use in either type of engine. It will not burn completely in a gasoline engine causing carbon deposits on pistons, cylinders, and valves. It will burn too quickly in a diesel engine causing the engine to race and may damage the engine with high heat.

These types of contamination usually affect performance within a short time after leaving the station. As soon as the fuel in the fuel lines gets used up, the contaminated fuel begins to do its damage.


Have a Question or Complaint?

Contact your

Local Weights and Measures Departments
or

NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets
Bureau of Weights and Measures
10B Airline Drive
Albany, New York 12235-0001
(518) 457-3146
agmweigh@agriculture.ny.gov

Revised 11/04/08