This time, BP fouls up car engines and fuel systems

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After the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, due to a massive oil spill, BP plc (ADR) (NYSE:BP) is in the news for another contamination – this time the engines and fuel tanks of more than 10,000 customers across north-west Indiana and some in Milwaukee.

According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, about 2.1 million gallons of gasoline produced at BP plc (NYSE:BP) (LON:BP)’s Whiting refinery are being recalled after it was found to contain a “higher than normal level of polymeric residue.”

The contaminated fuel is reported to have fouled up engines and fuel supply systems and tanks resulting in service shops and car dealers being inundated with repair calls from affected customers who topped up or filled up with the fuel. Customers have reported stalling, starting difficulties, rough driving and vibrations. The residue can deposit on the components of the fuel injection system.

Repairs required are commonly draining off the fuel and cleaning the fuel system. In some cases, simply filling fresh gas and a fuel cleaner does the trick.

Scot Dean, spokesman for  BP plc (NYSE:BP) (LON:BP)), stated that all approved claims would be reimbursed for the cost of repairs. These have typically ranged from $300 to $1200, but some customers reported repair bills as high as $1400.

Apart from motorists, many gas stations have also shut down pending a cleanup of their storage tanks and replacement with fresh fuel.

According to BP, the contaminated batch of gasoline probably slipped through the testing system which is based on sample testing for quality. The problem was traced to an error in its alkylation unit at the Whiting refinery.

As a result of the widespread problems due to the fuel, BP’s hotline was jammed and dissatisfied customers had difficulty getting through. This brought the Indiana Attorney General into the picture, who has launched an investigation into the matter.

 BP plc (NYSE:BP) (LON:BP)) is still investigating the quantity of the 2.1 million gallons of gas that actually entered motorists’ tanks and used. The company recommends that affected vehicles should be towed to a mechanic and auto repair shop, and does not know of any fuel additive that can solve the problem.

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