The amount of non-ethanol gasoline available across the country continues to go down. This is bad news for boat owners who treat their boats with care. And it's the biggest factor that influences good performance vs. bad performance out on the water. Sure, ethanol gasoline is good for the environment and helps us use more renewable fuels, but it can be tough on boats.
If you’re forced to use ethanol gasoline this bosting season, you should watch out for these boat fuel problems:
Water In Fuel & Poor Octane Rating
This is the big one we all know about. Ethanol attracts moisture, of which there’s plenty available out on the water. The fuel quality gets destroyed as the gasoline absorbs too much water and phase-separates, leaving you with a layer of alcohol and water at the bottom of the fuel tank.
Since fuel suppliers use ethanol to flesh out the gasoline’s octane rating, when some or all of the alcohol drops out, it puts a significant dent in the gasoline’s octane rating. You can lose as much as 3-4 octane points, depending on how much of the ethanol has dropped out and whether you’re using regular or premium fuel. If you’re using regular gasoline (87 octane) and you get phase separation, that fuel probably isn’t going to be useable.
Microbial Growth and Corrosion
People tend to associate fuel microbes with diesel fuel, but they can just as easily grow in gasoline. There’s nothing about gasoline that prevents them from doing that. And since ethanol fuels attract water, they have more of the very thing fuel microbes need to grow in.
Not only that, but the presence of both water and microbes mean you’ve got a greater chance of unexpected corrosion damage to your boat. That’s not anything you want to be playing with.
Cheaper Gas Prices?
Yes, it’s not all bad news. We’re in the middle of a downturn when it comes to gas prices. Oil is at new lows compared to years past, and that means gas prices will likely be lower for the fourth consecutive year. Gas prices typically peak around May and June and then steadily fall over the summer. So you can expect to be paying less for marine gas this year than last year, or the year before, or the year before. The one exception to this is California, where Exxon’s Torrance refinery has had production outages that put pressure on California’s gas supply. This means California boaters can expect their gas prices to stay higher than the national average.
You may be interested in these related posts:
- A Boat's Biggest Concern - Water In Fuel
- Boating this weekend? Look out for ethanol problems.
- Fuel stabilizer for boats: Why do I need one?
This post was published on May 11, 2016 and was updated on April 15, 2021.