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Excessive Sulfur Halts Gas Sales

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Hundreds of Shell and Texaco stations in Florida halted their gasoline sales yesterday after a refining company determined that gas distributed from terminals in Tampa and Port Everglades contained excessive sulfur that could damage a vehicle's fuel-gauge sensor, reported the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel

Sales also were suspended at stations in the New Orleans area, said the Houston-based refiner, Motiva Enterprises LLC.

Sales of regular and mid-grade gas at those stations have been suspended while officials investigate, she said. The affected stations will sell premium-grade gas at regular grade prices, the company said. Motiva said it will remove and replace any fuel with high sulfur levels.

Terminals in Orlando and Pensacola, Fla. were being tested to rule out problems with their fuel supplies, the company said. However, about 450 of the 1,430 Shell and Texaco stations in Florida that are supplied by the Port Everglades and Tampa terminals may have received gas with excessive sulfur, Motiva spokeswoman Helen Bow said.

Bow did not know how long it would take to replace the gasoline, and she declined to speculate on whether the reduced supply of gas might contribute to a shortage in Florida over the busy Memorial Day weekend.

Gasoline with high levels of sulfur "will tell a fuel gauge the tank is full when it's actually at empty," Bow said. The elevated sulfur levels are not known to affect engine performance or cause engine damage, Motiva said in a press release.

However, if a consumer suspects damage to the fuel gauge from using the contaminated gas, Shell or Texaco will pay for repairs. "We will stand behind our products if there are issues," Bow said.

Last week, Louisville, Ky.-based Marathon Ashland Petroleum (MAP) issued a statement saying that some of the gasoline it delivered to the Louisville area after May 3 contained sulfur, resulting in hundreds of motorists running out of fuel even though their gas gauges indicated they had plenty left in the tank. MAP reimbursed those who were inconvenienced by the gas gauge problem.
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