Top Tier Gasoline Offers Top-Shelf Benefits

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All gasoline is not created equal. This is even more apparent at this time of year, when fuel blends are changed so they will perform better as the temperature changes. If you are still using summer blended fuels then the engine will be harder to start in cold weather. This usually isn't a problem for most drivers, as fuel tanks are refilled often. Sometimes you may get a tank or two of fuel that isn't blended for the outside temperatures and usually this happens because temperatures are above or below normal. The fuel suppliers try to predict weather so they can provide a proper blend, but just like weather forecasters, they aren't always right.

There is more to blending fuel than just adjusting the formula for temperature. According to Scott Rappaport, a fuel specialist from Shell's Houston, Texas research centre, fuels also have to meet the needs of both old and new vehicles. Looking at historical data, it is predicted that by 2018 approximately 50 percent of the vehicles on the road will be 2010 model year or older. The newest vehicles will have the newest technologies such as direct fuel injection or Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition (basically a combination of gasoline and diesel engine ignition technology) and the fuels must be formulated to work with these technologies. At the same time, the fuels must also work in older vehicles and even antique vehicles.

I asked Rappaport if we would see a time when filling stations had pumps designated for the age of vehicle to be filled. He thinks not -- that future fuels can be blended so all gasoline vehicles will fill at the same pumps just as we do today.

One of the fuel changes we might see more in the future is the need for more "Top Tier" fuel. Several years ago some of the auto manufacturers recognized that emissions levels rose and fuel economy dropped if fuels didn't meet standards for deposit control on intake valves and fuel injectors. Six manufacturers, BMW, General Motors, Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen and Audi established minimum performance standards for deposit control that would enable modern engines to operate efficiently and invited fuel suppliers to meet these "Top Tier" standards. Currently in Canada, Esso, Petro-Canada, Shell and Sunoco are the only major suppliers recognized as meeting the Top Tier standards.

Part of these standards is that all gasoline blends sold by the supplier must meet the standards. That means...

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