Lukoil says water tainted gas

Cars broke down on the Garden State Pkwy. due to the bad gas
April 18, 2008 11:28:51 AM PDT
Gas station chain Lukoil on Friday blamed water contamination for bad gas at least seven service stations across New Jersey that left dozens of motorists stranded. The company was working to reopen stations in North Jersey Friday after reports of stall-outs on roadways across Bergen, Essex and Monmouth counties, said OAO Lukoil spokesman George Wilkins.

"We are working around the clock to test, remove, and replace all affected products," Wilkins said.

The bad gas was sold to motorists during the Thursday night rush hour. Wilkins said the distributor believes the problem was caused by "excessive concentrations of water in storage tanks" at a distribution terminal.

More than 60 cars stalled along the Garden State Parkway Thursday evening after filling up at stations in Fort Lee, Bloomfield and along the parkway, said Parkway spokesman Joe Orlando. Police also reported at least 11 stalled cars in Wall Township.

Orlando said the incidents didn't affect traffic, but that there was a shortage of tow-trucks to deal with the large volume of stranded motorists.

"It's just not a scenario we deal with regularly," he said.

Wilkins said Lukoil would assist motorists with repairs and reimburse them for rental cars if needed. The company set up a hot line for assistance where motorists could leave a message.

Water can cause a car to stall because it is heavier than gas.

"The gas is always sucked from the bottom, so if you put water in the tank, all you will do is pump water," said Sal Risalvato, executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline C-store Automotive Association.

Risalvato said that while water won't usually ruin a car engine, it can be a costly repair - on average $500 to $1,000 per car - because the gas lines must be completely drained and cleaned.

Wilkins said the incident happened just as distributors were switching from winter-blends of gas to summer gas - a federal requirement to help stem pollution. The switchover often requires the cleaning of gas storage tanks.

Lukoil station owner Goldy Dhesi of Highland Park said although his station did not receive the bad gas, the incident seemed to be affecting Lukoil's distribution Friday. He had been scheduled for a Friday morning delivery of regular gas and had run out of inventory.

"I don't know what happened, they stopped the deliveries," he said. "I was supposed to get it this morning, I'm still waiting."