What's in the fuel?

By john.wallace

Timmons checks to see if the displays on the gas pump are working properly. He looks for leaks and opens the cabinet to check for credit card skimmers.

Inspectors then do a calibration test. They pump five gallons of gas into a device called a prover. This is to make sure the volume shown on the pump matches the volume of gas that goes into your car.

Inspectors also check the gas for water. Timmons uses a long stick with a special paste on the end which goes to the bottom of the underground storage tank.

He removes the stick from the tank and sees that the paste on the end is still white. That’s a good thing. "If it had water in the tank the paste would have changed to the pink color," Timmons explains.
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If he had found water in the gasoline, a sample would have also been sent to the LDAF testing lab in Baton Rouge.

Tricia Berry is the enforcement supervisor for the Southwestern district. Her inspectors check two to three stations a day – depending on their size.

"If there's something that we find wrong at a station, we will come back for a re-inspection after it’s been fixed," Berry said.

The Southwestern district has nine inspectors for 13 parishes. They will go to each gas station at least once a year.

Dr. Mike Strain is the Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry. His department also covers the Office of Metrology which oversees weights, measures, and standards.

Strain said his inspectors test over 70,000 gas pumps a year.

"We also do it by complaint,” Strain said. “We average about 500 complaints per year in the state and we send out personnel out immediately."

In those cases, samples are taken and sent to the lab in Baton Rouge.

Inspectors also take random samples to check for ethanol and diesel. The lab in Baton Rouge can also determine the octane rating of the gasoline.

"It's an engine and it's a very unique system that gauges horsepower, the amount of horsepower that the fuel generates determines what the octane is,” Strain said.

He said if someone is trying to pass off 87 octane gas as 93 octane – that’s a problem.

"And that's why we check it to make sure the consumer is getting what they pay for. And again if you violate that then it is a very substantial fine,” said Strain.

As for why prices can vary so much from town to town – or even street to street – Strain cites several reasons: the gas station's location, the refinery the gas was purchased at, the price of oil when the refinery bought it, and the cost of overhead at the gas station.  

Read more:  http://www.klfy.com/news/local/whats-in-the-gasoline/1158279516

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