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The difficult gasoline story

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Gasoline is a volatile, flammable petroleum derivative. For people who are interested in the deeper backgrounds of this material, we recommend the purchase of "Lucky Luke in the shadow of derricks". But we decided to go into the depths. Without air miles.

E 10. And then? Or: E10, the New Naft

That 'naft' is Flemish for gasoline and because it gives such a nice start rhyme. Petroleum is 'cracked' to fall apart into its various components. The most volatile substances are butane and propane. Below that is our gasoline (naphtha). The kerosene of the planes that bring us to London or Barcelona for 9 euros is down again. All the way at the bottom of the bucket we find lubricating oil, paraffin and asphalt plus possibly some dinos and mammoth bones. So much for the technology behind the excise juice extraction.


Gasoline. From 'Benz', or benzene

In the past there was gasoline, named after Benz, the inventor of the car. At least according to the Germans. The stuff did an excellent job and smelled nice. The environment was then discovered as a business model and we first received five and now ten percent (bio) alcohol in our fuel because it is more sustainable. "Sustainable" is also a revenue model.

Felling trees for fuel

In order to extract that alcohol, large-scale jungles are harvested in poor countries and corn and similar stuff are grown. That basic food is then, in a world where serious hunger is still being suffered, converted into a fuel with a relatively low combustion value: ethanol, the drinkable type of alcohol. In principle, we believe that alcohol simply belongs in a glass.

Stoke on a cocktail

But we are confronted with the phenomenon called E10: gasoline to which 10% ethanol has been added. And that is again to reduce CO2 emissions. This is important. We are just waiting to see if anyone can explain to us how it is possible that our classics must save what the price fighters who bring you to 99 for a sunny country and fly back to CO2 into the environment, but still: we only have one environment .

In the meantime, we are not all graduate chemists, but we are confronted with the consequences of all that planning.

And if saving our planet with E10 is a good plan?

That really depends on your classic. The diluted gasoline has some pain points. Especially for the part of our vehicle fleet that is a bit older. In other words: older than 20-25 years. Even with engines of around ten years old, problems can arise.

But then again: In the Beginne there was Gasoline

Gasoline is a colorless mixture of hydrocarbons that is used as fuel for gasoline engines and as a solvent and cleaning agent. It consists of lighter distillation fractions of petroleum with a low viscosity (the degree of fluidity) and a relatively low boiling range. Gasoline consists of a mixture of hydrocarbons with usually 4 to about 12 carbon atoms, especially branched alkanes and benzene ring molecules such as toluene and xylene. It is perhaps surprising that, despite the name, modern gasoline contains little to no benzene. This component has been removed because it is actively carcinogenic.

No more sulfur either

The sulfur compounds have also been removed to combat air pollution. Apparently, acetone is currently a major component of our gasoline. Test it yourself by having your partner remove her nail polish. The oil companies are all very secretive about that, by the way. For details, consult your old study books and Wikipedia. When 1 liters of gasoline are burned, approx. 35 MJ (= 9,7 kWh) energy is released. And of that, such an 25% is converted into motion. The rest disappears as heat. And that is good for the motorcycle and cabriolet drivers in terms of climate change.

Additives are no panacea

Additives are also added to gasoline used as fuel dopes mentioned), among other things to prevent the engine from knocking (pinging). That phenomenon is the spontaneous, premature ignition of the fuel in the cylinders. It can cause serious engine damage. The knock resistance is expressed in the octane number of the gasoline.

A number, not a content

Often the term octane is erroneously usedcontent used. This is incorrect because it suggests that octane would be a substance added to the gasoline. Correct is: it octane number is a reference value for the knock resistance of gasoline.

The fuel tax is also an additive of a completely different nature. More than half of the liter price goes directly to De Staat.

The lead has long gone

In earlier days, gasoline was 'leaded'. Tetraethyl lead (TEL) is a substance that has been widely used in the past to increase the octane rating of gasoline, making it more stable. The engine could then be compressed higher, which in turn led to more power. The "lead" contained in tetra-ethyl lead ended up in the environment through the outlets of the engines and cars and was by far the most important source of lead in the human body.

Around 1990, therefore, a start has been made in Europe with the switch to the unleaded petrol. This was also necessary through the development and introduction of the catalysts in the exhaust systems. "Lead" is an expensive death for catalysts.

More benzene in it

Initially more benzene was added to the gasoline to increase the knock resistance, but as said, benzene is carcinogenic. Fortunately we did not know that as juveniles, while we applied it with a sponge to degrease sheet metal before applying a new layer of lacquer with the back of the vacuum cleaner. Otherwise we would probably have been left with it.

However, finding an alternative was difficult. Nowadays methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) is added to gasoline. This substance is also not undisputed, but clearly less dangerous than benzene.

Again those additives

Most brands now also sell 'premium' gasolines to which additives have been added that would increase the engine power or have a cleaning effect. Shell and BP give up. But ethanol is not one of those performance-enhancing components. And wasn't there ever a warning action in the Netherlands "Alcohol destroys more than you love"?

But then again: ethanol or alcohol is a degreaser

This has consequences for the lubrication of the fuel pump and injectors. The strong cleaning effect can dissolve old dirt in the fuel system and cause it to settle annoyingly elsewhere. Rubber fuel lines, the plastic gasoline tank and the valves and valve seats of your classic also don't mind ethanol. With polyester tanks, the ethanol eats all resin between the glass fibers. After that the tank became a beautiful lace filigree. A transparent, thin art object.

The E10 is also very aggressive with regard to many tank coatings

We have found this coating several times as lumpy sheets in the bottom of the tank. With all the blockages of fuel taps, fuel lines and carburetor and cg injection. With classics with normal carburetors, the ethanol often wants to do very wrong things with the nozzles, the floats, the sealing tip on the float needle, with various gaskets and plastic parts. Even the 'dissolution' of float bins has been reported.

Furthermore, you should definitely avoid short journeys.

The chance of oil dilution is much higher. In addition, ethanol is much more corrosive, so that the oil ages more quickly and therefore needs to be replaced more often.

Furthermore, independent tests in the various foreign countries have shown that the new fuel can even affect light alloy alloys of not unimportant parts such as gas pumps. And a leaking fuel pump can lead to a whole new definition of the term 'combustion engine'.

In addition, the 'new naft' is seriously water-attracting. The moisture in the air is absorbed and forms drops of water, which collect at the lowest point of the fuel tank. With E95 gasoline, this has already resulted in countless tanks that have been rusted in from the inside, and E10 adds a lot of water.

Moreover, the feared 'phase separation' can occur

Gasoline and alcohol separate. Where the E10 mix is ​​digestible for an engine, it goes wrong after 'phase-separation'. The old wisdom to put the engine in winter storage with the fullest possible tank must therefore be changed. Place the classic with an empty tank and drained fuel system in a dry shed.

Another reason to put the vehicle with an empty tank in winter storage: the volatile components of the current petrol have a service life of 4 to 6 weeks. Think about your last bottle of champagne after it has been half full and without cork on it in the shed. Or do you not drink bubbles after every successful repair or cleaning?

It doesn't bother classics and really modern engines

But with 'middle-aged motorcycles' in age, that would lead to serious starting problems. To remove the worst fear: the engines of the Great Brands produced for the European market can run on E80 from the 2005 (Harley-Davidson), the 1990s (Honda) and 2010-10 (Kawasaki). No problems are expected with engines less than ten years old. For the somewhat older engines the following applies: in cold weather, an engine equipped with normal carburetors will start more difficult in the cold and count on such an 2,5% power loss because alcohol has a lower combustion value.

That combustion value is the energy that is released during incineration. Consider the difference between a dry toast with half a glass of 'water light' or a whole-wheat sandwich with cheese and a glass of milk. Somehow that energy happens after a meal with horse beef with onion and cream sauce plus a few pints very differently, but we still find out.

Whether we will miss that 2,5% at every traffic light sprint?

Oh well ... it may also be necessary to adjust the pre-ignition to keep things running smoothly. With older engines it can be useful to adjust the nozzle occupation. The values ​​as mentioned in the workshop manual are from now on guide values ​​instead of fixed values.

Bob Dylan already sang it: "The times they are dependent". And we will have to deal with that.

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10 Comments

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  1. Maybe you work at the shell, Nanno? I think it is very wise to take this into account!
    The oil world has already caused a lot of misery because the profits are still not high enough… ..

    • Unfortunately Nanno: Shell VPower contains UP TO 5% ethanol ...
      Only BP Ultimate and Firestone 102 Competitione are 100% ethanol-free in the Netherlands.
      For information I would like to refer you to the websites of Shell, BP and Firestone.

  2. The premium gasoline from Shell and BP, among others, are Ethanol, despite the E5 label. A safe choice for your classic. Furthermore, drive regularly and if there is a winter break, add a gasoline stabilizer in the full tank. Then no problems are expected. Don't get scared by all those emotional stories!

  3. Nice, that environmental story.
    In the years 80 and 90 it started with catalysts and so on. Because the acid rain and the hole in the Ozone layer, something needed to be done about this.
    You now hear nothing about it. Certainly solved.
    Then why demolish rain forests at the expense of food production, ethanol
    to produce on a very large scale.
    CO, greenhouse gas. Where does that term come from?
    Shall I make a cross?
    There are greenhouses in the Westland. To ensure that the plants grow smoothly, gardeners have long been letting CO cannons roar in the greenhouses. Of course they are not completely gas-tight. So doing “Greenhouse gas”.
    In the meantime I am convinced that it has nothing to do with the environment, except that it is a nice earnings model.

    • Gerard: those co2 cannons are a bit of an outdated story.
      We have had them too, in the carnation cultivation, in the 70s. . . .
      Today there are TEs, large aggregates that generate heat, electricity and co2, which are all used for growth.
      co2 + h2o = c6h12o6 using sunlight. (chlorophyll, photosynthesis, that kind of stuff, by the way, a plant just does it the other way around at night, which is why hospitals used to remove plants and flowers from patients' rooms ...)

      An excess of electricity (used for the well-known grow lights) is put into the net.
      Until the whole heise of windmills (or are those subsidy mills?) And solar panels, supplying energy back was even an interesting revenue model, sometimes even more interesting than what was grown in the greenhouse.

  4. Very interesting, now I am still curious about what an ethanol killer like Miller's VSPe does and how. (protects up to E10) I'm just throwing it in and haven't found any dissolved parts in my E5 powered seventy-year-old vehicle, but I'm still worried now

  5. Did I understand correctly that Shell Vpower and Firezone 102Competition do NOT contain ethanol ??? I do know that the GWing from 1982 ran much nicer after a ride on euro95 after a refueling on 102Competition. I have since spoiled Goldie with 102. The Vpower is refueled a few times

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