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
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
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
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!
Don't be fooled by the product names like
premium, platinum, gold, extra, special, etc.
Regular gasoline must be 87 octane, however, retailers have flexibility in the terms they use to describe other octanes provided the terms are not misleading. 88 to 90 octanes are middle grades and terms such as "mid-grade" and "plus" are often used; and for 91 and over octanes terms such as "premium" and "super" are common. These names usually do not help a lot in making value comparisons, always refer to the octane sticker
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
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
Have a Question or Complaint?
Local Weights and Measures
NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets
Bureau of Weights and Measures
10B Airline Drive
Albany, New York 12235-0001