Magellan malfunction sends high ethanol blends to 60 MN stations

By Kris Bevill | October 12, 2011

The Minnesota Department of Commerce is conducting an extensive inspection of ethanol-blended gasoline in 21 communities throughout the southern part of the state after Magellan Midstream Partners LP mistakenly distributed gasoline blended with high percentages of ethanol to facilities in those areas.

According to information released by the department, Magellan notified officials on Monday, Oct. 10, that a technical malfunction at its Mankato, Minn., terminal on Sat. Oct. 8, led to gasoline being blended with higher than approved amounts of ethanol. As a result, the company said it had distributed 108 loads of gasoline with above-regulation concentrations of ethanol to more than 60 retail gas stations and cooperatives over a four-hour period.

Magellan spokesman Bruce Heine said the company has suspended gasoline and ethanol loading operations at the terminal and is working to correct the situation at the terminal and recover the off-spec product from retail facilities as soon as possible. The commerce department is working with Magellan to recover the fuel and has also required Magellan to provide a report detailing exactly how the malfunction occurred, identify what stations received the above-regulation blends, explain what the company did to correct the problem and submit a plan that will ensure a similar event will not happen in the future. Magellan is cooperating fully with the department’s request, but declined to offer additional details to the public at this time.

In the meantime, state officials are using bill of lading records to determine which fueling stations were affected by the error. In a press release, the department said the process is time-consuming because the off-spec gasoline was delivered to bulk plants as well as secondary distributors. “Our investigators are completing inspections of stations we suspect were affected by this situation, and working directly with the distributor and station owners to ensure that bad fuel is not being sold to consumers, and is being replaced immediately,” Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said in a statement. “Minnesota consumers should know that our department has been, and will continue to be, vigilant in addressing this problem.”

It is unclear exactly how high the ethanol content was in the fuel ultimately distributed to retailers. Magellan identified it only as having “high ethanol content,” above the approved 10 percent volume. One of the fuel samples taken by weights and measures officials from an affected retail station was shown to contain a 63 percent concentration of ethanol.

The commerce department recommends that consumers with questions contact the weights and measures division at (651) 215-5821.