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
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.
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...”