ETHANOL AND MARINE ENGINES   Leave a comment

Brad Schad of the Missouri Corn Growers Association

Brad Schad of the Missouri Corn Growers Association

Funny how many subjects we discuss while fishing.  Somehow the subject of ethanol arose on a recent crappie fishing junket in southern Illinois.  It is probably only natural when one of the other anglers in the boat is the Director of Ethanol Policy for the Missouri Corn Growers Association.  Brad Schad is interested in exposing the myths that shroud the use of Ethanol in marine engines.

According to Brad, ethanol is often the victim of all sorts of misinformation and accusations of engine problems to which it has no connection.

Ethanol as fuel is not a new concept.  Henry Ford and other early automakers believed that it would become the primary fuel before gasoline became popular.

The basic accusation against ethanol in fuel is that it causes phase separation.  That is when water separates from fuel and pools at the bottom of the fuel tank possibly causing rust or other damage to the engine.  However fuel that is E10 blend cannot absorb enough moisture out of the air to cause such separation.  If condensation occurs, or water directly splashed into the tank, water phase separation can occur.  This water separation is more likely to occur in straight gasoline than in an ethanol blend.

Gasoline should not be stored for more than 60 days without the addition of a fuel stabilizer.

According to Brad, today’s gasoline is much more than just petroleum.  It is made of more than 150 chemicals and compounds in the form of additives.  He believes that most of the fuel problems experienced have more to do with the additives than with ethanol.  Benzene used to increase octane in straight gasoline is more corrosive to plastics then ethanol.  Some people blame ethanol, a clean burning oxygenate, for small engine issues.

Today 90 percent of the gasoline sold to Americans contains up to 10 percent ethanol with no issues.  It burns cleaner and cooler than gasoline.

Some outdoorsmen blame ethanol for reduced performance of their boat engine.  Actually ethanol contains high octane which produces increased performance in racing boats and burns cleaner.

Some consumers complain that the ethanol will not work in the two-stroke engine.  Following extensive testing manufacturers recommend using a specific fuel blend.  The use of E10 in small engines has gone on for a long time.

There are some mistakes that outdoorsmen make that seem to create problems with ethanol fuel in the systems of their engines.  One is getting fuel that contains more than 10 percent ethanol.  The addition of E15 fuels in marinas has created its own problems.  E15 fuel creates problems to the point of being toxic to marine engines.  Just check your engine owner’s manual.  To avoid this problem, Brad recommends that you read the ethanol rating on the pump.  If it says nothing or says E15, he suggests you purchase you fuel elsewhere.  You can stop at a local service station before arrival at the ramp.  Most service stations carry both grades of ethanol and you can choose the E10.

Ethanol will attract water extremely slowly from the air.  A boat sitting idle for months may experience fuel/water problems.  Even straight gasoline for more than 60 days without the addition of a fuel stabilizer can have water condensation problems.  Routine inspection and maintenance is the best way to avoid problems.

There are a number of fuel stabilizers and driers on the market that will probably minimize or eliminate water and corrosion problems.  If you suspect engine problems caused by ethanol, use a fuel stabilizer that is specifically alcohol free.

To Brad it is vital that one use only E10 fuel in marine engines and that fuel stabilizer be added to the fuel tank prior to storage.  He maintains that the boat owner should not have any fuel problems if they take these precautions.

For more information in ethanol use in marine engines check out the Missouri Corn Growers Association website at http://www.mocorn.org.

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