Dig­ging those cosy zip-up boots. Oh yeah

Mod­ern fu­els are not what they were. There are ad­di­tives, some good, one in par­tic­u­lar bad – the dreaded bioethanol. Here are the facts about what goes in your tank to­day

Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - CONTENTS - Words: Alan See­ley Pic­tures: Bauer Ar­chive

There’s plenty of con­jec­ture sur­round­ing fuel.we know that the ethanol found in much of it causes is­sue for our older mo­tor­cy­cles and some new ones too. There’s plenty of myth and ru­mour about the sub­ject so we’re go­ing to get to the facts of the mat­ter and find the best way to fuel your bike.

Ju­lia Mans­field is Tech. Man­ager at Fuel Ad­di­tive Science Tech­nolo­gies Ltd (FAST Ex­o­cet) which for­mu­lates, man­u­fac­tures and dis­trib­utes fuel ad­di­tives for whole­sale and re­tail in the UK and Ire­land.

She ex­plains some of the ba­sics of how fuel re­tail works: “All of the petrol comes out of the same re­finer­ies and im­port ter­mi­nals, so every brand and re­tailer has the same base fu­els.the point of dif­fer­ence comes when the brand adds their own ad­di­tive pack­ages and this is done at the ter­mi­nal.the de­liv­ery tankers are then filled with the fuel.”

What’s in an ‘ad­di­tive pack’? Ju­lia ex­plains: “Mainly it’s things like fric­tion mod­i­fiers for bet­ter miles per gal­lon, de­ter­gents for cleaner en­gines, cor­ro­sion in­hibitors and some­times there are oc­tane

THE ONLY RE­TAILER THAT SAYS CAT­E­GOR­I­CALLY THAT THERE IS NO ETHANOL IN ITS SUPERUNLEADED IS ESSO WITH ITS SYN­ERGY SUPREME PLUS, AND THEN ONLY IN CER­TAIN AR­EAS

boost­ers too although this is usu­ally ad­dressed in the for­mu­la­tion of the fuel it­self. Up to 0.1 per cent of the fuel you buy can be made up of ad­di­tives.”

There’s one other thing that goes in at the ter­mi­nal – our old friend bioethanol. “The man­u­fac­tur­ers like to leave this un­til the very last minute,” re­veals Ju­lia.the rea­son is one we are all be­com­ing fa­mil­iar with. It’s called ‘phase sep­a­ra­tion’. when petrol con­tain­ing ethanol comes in con­tact with wa­ter, either liq­uid or con­den­sa­tion, the ethanol ab­sorbs the wa­ter. when it reaches sat­u­ra­tion point the ethanol then sep­a­rates out of the fuel and so does the wa­ter.the higher the tem­per­a­ture, the more wa­ter there is too. If you have say, 10 per cent ethanol fuel (E10) you can have up to 0.5 per cent wa­ter at 15°C. the wa­ter sinks to the bot­tom and sets to its cor­ro­sive work in your fuel sys­tem.

It is now a mat­ter of law that fuel in the UK con­tains an amount of ethanol un­der some­thing called the Re­new­able Trans­port Fuel Obli­ga­tion. this has been in prac­tice since 2008 and re­quired that five per cent of all road ve­hi­cle fuel be from sus­tain­able re­new­able sources by 2010. On 15 April this year the pro­por­tion was raised to 7.25 per cent.you can be sure that the fig­ure is likely to go only one way.the dam­age wa­ter can do is fairly ob­vi­ous but Ju­lia says that it can change the ph of the fuel, mak­ing it more acidic.

The com­pul­sion to add re­new­able fuel such as ethanol does not ex­tend to su­per un­leaded at the mo­ment but don’t think that means it’s all ethanol-free, as we as­sumed on the mag un­til re­cently.the re­quire­ment to add ethanol falls on all com­pa­nies that re­tail more than 450,000 litres of fuel a year, de­fined as “ma­jor sup­pli­ers of fos­sil fu­els”. In or­der to meet their obli­ga­tions, re­tail­ers can add ethanol across all of their prod­ucts, par­tic­u­larly diesel, rather than con­cen­trat­ing in just one or two.at the time of writ­ing the only re­tailer that says cat­e­gor­i­cally that there is no ethanol in its su­per un­leaded is Esso with its Syn­ergy Supreme + and then only in cer­tain ar­eas. If you’re in Devon, Corn­wall, teesside or Scot­land then there’s ethanol in the Syn­ergy Supreme +.

Guy Lach­lan is man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Clas­sic Oils which, among other things, sells ethanol re­moval kit called Ethanil rang­ing in price from 50 quid to 75.

ktoitb­se­um­saecheitnhead­nol’s affinity for wa­ter to ex­tract it and lets you see how much ethanol you have re­moved from fuel and my own re­search has shown that Shell V-power,tesco 99 and BP Ul­ti­mate sold around our way in Ox­ford­shire don’t con­tain any ethanol,” he says.

“I’d be cau­tious about us­ing any method to take ethanol out of the fuel as the ex­tra pro­cess­ing may cause loss of what we call ‘light ends’ from the petrol; those are the more volatile com­po­nents re­quired to pro­mote the com­bus­tion re­ac­tion.and han­dling and pro­cess­ing gaso­line can be very dan­ger­ous,” says Ju­lia.while Guy ac­cepts that this might be a risk, he says: “It can re­move light ends which may or may not be an is­sue de­pend­ing on the en­gine you’re us­ing the fuel in. But I think it’s a the­o­ret­i­cal risk. On a race bike you might no­tice it.the most im­por­tant thing is to have no ethanol in your fuel.”

The 450,000 litres rule means there’s an open­ing for small and en­ter­pris­ing

providers to sell ethanol-free fuel.as­pen is one of the larger ones. How­ever you will pay at least £4/litre plus ex­pen­sive ship­ping (a least half as much again) and not all com­pa­nies will ship so you’ll have to col­lect.also, there are strict rules on stor­ing fuel at home. It has to be in a proper con­tainer and you aren’t meant to have more than 20 litres.

What of su­per­mar­ket fuel? The re­ceived wis­dom is that it just isn’t as good as the branded stuff, with the pos­si­ble ex­cep­tion of Tesco 99. Ju­lia says: “Well, 10 years or so ago it re­ally wasn’t as good.to­day all I would say is that su­per­mar­kets make a lit­tle less ef­fort with their ad­di­tive pack­ages than the big brands – re­mem­ber that the base fuel is all the same. If it both­ers you and you want to give your bike the best, buy branded fuel with a good ad­di­tive pack­age rather than su­per­mar­ket petrol sold as a loss leader.” Ju­lia says the best thing we can pos­si­bly do with fuel is burn it. “Go out and ride,” she says. “If you do have to lay your bike up for any ex­tended pe­riod of time, do one of two things – either drain the sys­tem or brim it. In the first case there will be no ethanol and in the sec­ond there will be less room for wa­ter to be ab­sorbed.”

“Burn it is right,” says PS tech­ni­cal con­sul­tant Gary Hurd. “There are plenty of bikes that won’t start af­ter a win­ter layup un­til they’ve had fresh fuel.” Me­chan­ics like Gary find them­selves clean­ing and over­haul­ing fuel sys­tems al­most as a mat­ter of course.there’s no fuel like old fuel for wreck­ing tanks and carbs.and these days ‘old fuel’ can be any­thing that’s been in your tank for more than a month.

There are ad­di­tives avail­able to coun­ter­act the worst ef­fects of ethanol. Guy says: “We have a prod­uct called Te­tra­boost which will pro­tect from cor­ro­sion and pre­vent wa­ter sink­ing to the bot­tom of your fuel sys­tem.te­tra­boost is tetra ethyl lead in so­lu­tion with an ethanol cor­ro­sion in­hibitor.ad­di­tives can be good for metal com­po­nents but there are no ad­di­tives that can help with ethanol’s ef­fects on plas­tic or rub­ber. My pre­ferred com­bi­na­tion for my own ve­hi­cles is to start with some­thing like Shell V-power and add Te­tra­boost to raise oc­tane and pro­tect against cor­ro­sion.we’ve re­cently started sell­ing Te­tra­boost in smaller quan­ti­ties for mo­tor­cy­clists.” Guy says you can feel a dif­fer­ence with his prod­uct and we plan to put it to the test in the mag. One side ef­fect is that by us­ing Te­tra­boost to put lead in the fuel you can ac­tu­ally do a mean­ing­ful plug chop again.

If ethanol-laced fuel is caus­ing you is­sues – and if it hasn’t it prob­a­bly will as the pro­por­tion of re­new­able fuel in­creases – the best op­tion is to get an Ethanil kit if only to es­tab­lish where the su­per un­leaded in your area con­tains ethanol or not. Or if you don’t fancy the out­lay for one of those, do as Ju­lia says and get out there and ride.

Use­ful Links

as­pen­fuel.co.uk clas­sic-oils.net fas­tex­o­cet.co.uk

Ju­lia Mans­field, petrol­head

Manky tank cour­tesy of ethanol con­tent

At the pet food and bar­be­cue coal shop, sorry petrol sta­tion

This bowl con­tains wa­ter (at the bot­tom, sep­a­rated out from the fuel ) with petrol float­ing above. This is what the in­side of your tank might look like

Float bowl rust from ethanol wa­ter ab­sorp­tion

“Right, it’s def­i­nitelty not diesel...”

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