ST. PAUL - A Minnesota Department of Commerce investigation identified at least 38 southern MInnesota gas stations and 10 secondary distributors with above-regulation ethanol concentrations earlier this week.
Fuel was removed and replaced at affected stations by Tulsa, Ok.-based Magellan Midstream Partners Petroleum, the distributor responsible for last Saturday's ethanol malfunction.
Department investigators suspect 15-20 more stations may have received non-regulation fuel from secondary distributors, according to a Department of Commerce news release.
A coordinated effort will identify any remaining stations that may have received fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol, to ensure that product is immediately replaced, the news release stated.
A gasoline sample taken at a Springfield station Monday, Oct. 10 contained a 63 percent ethanol concentration, according to lab results from the Department's Weights and Measures Division.
A Windom station removed their product from sale Thursday, Oct. 13 pending test results that showed a 17 percent ethanol content.
More samples are being collected for testing at affected gas stations around the region.
"Our highest priority is making sure (above 10 percent ethanol) fuel does not end up in gas tanks of Minnesota consumers," said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman.
"Since we first learned of the situation Monday afternoon, our field investigators have been working vigilantly to identify gas stations affected by this incident. We are working to identify the full scope of the problem, help replace the fuel immediately, and restore public confidence in the marketplace," Rothman added.
Affected stations, according to the Commerce Dept. are Genesis Coop C-Store and Kwik Trip, Belle Plane; 212&1 Stop, Danube; Super America, North Mankato; Mankato Super America, N. Riverfront Dr., Hilltop Quick Mart, Qwik Trips on Stoltzman and Raintree Road, North River Drive and 1549 Madison Ave.; Kwik Trip, Freedom, SSL Auto Service and Harmening Oil, New Ulm; River Region C Store, Sleepy Eye and Essig; Braun Oil, Sleepy Eye; 3 Owatonna Kwip Trips and Hy-Vee Gas; Watonwan Farm Service, Juba's Fuel Express, Blue Earth; UFC C Store, Gibbon, Winthrop; Cenex, Redwood Falls; Farmer's Coop Oil, Renville; Erickson's, Kwik Trip, St. Peter; Harvestland Coop and Tauer's Super Value, Springfield; Country Pride Coop, Erickson Freedom Value, Windom; Hy-Vee Gas, Albert Lea; and Hy-Vee Food Store, Austin.
Kwik Trip's Madison, Wis.-based spokesperson John McCue said stations have received only a few reports of fuel-related problems.
"Some people had check engine lights come on. Most people had about a quarter of a tank of fuel left in their tanks when they filled up, so most of the extra ethanol was diluted," McCue said.
A spokesperson at Freedom Valu Center in New Ulm said their gas wasn't affected because it was "between (fuel truck) loads."
River Region Manager Vern Haala at Sleepy Eye said some of the concentrated ethanol fuel was sold at his stores, most of which went into newer company vehicles, before his tanks were pumped out.
"Newer vehicles can handle more ethanol (concentrations)," Haala added.
Steve Fluegge at SSL Auto Service, New Ulm said he answered lots of questions but there were no consumer problems he was aware of.
United Farmers Co-op Manager Darv Turbes in Winthrop said he heard "very few complaints, mostly check engine lights," and that Magellan created customer complaint forms if there are any issues.
Tauer's Super Value owner George Tauer said he knew of "very few" check engine light issues from the fuel.
After the investigation and cleanup, Rothman directed Magellan to provide a full report of the situation, detailing a specific account of what happened and what stations were involved, what was done to correct the problem and a detailed plan to ensure this kind of problem never happens again. Magellan agreed to the request, according to the Commerce Dept.
Minnesota consumers with questions, concerns or complaints should contact the Minnesota Dept. of Commerce Weights and Measures Division at (651-215-5821).
For more information, visit mn.gov/commerce/weights-and-measures/.
Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at email@example.com.