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Apr 17, 2014 4:52 PM by Dave Fields

Exxon apologizes for "inconvenience" from gas sold with gum residue

ExxonMobil is now apologizing for the sale of gasoline it now confirms contained an "atypical variation" of gum residue that sometimes "sticks to intake valves," says a company spokesperson.

"We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused our customers and motorists," said Stephanie Cargile, the Public and Government Affairs Manager for ExxonMobil Baton Rouge.

"Through our investigation-to-date, we have identified an atypical variation in the fuel in the affected batches that is consistent with the issues we are seeing in impacted vehicles. We do not observe this variation in batches currently produced," Cargile told KATC.

Cargile explained that an allowable amount of gum-like residue is found on the refinery level in gasolines produced by most oil producers, but that the "atypical variation" of gum-like residue discovered by ExxonMobil still meets, despite all of the reported mechanical issues resulting from the tainted gasoline, both state and company specifications. Cargile stressed that ExxonMobil's gum level threshold already was lower than the state's allowable level, but that the company has further lowered its threshold level since discovering the atypical variation.

" Exxon is supplying fuel reports to the LDAF (Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry) since they reopened the Baton Rouge terminal," said Veronica Mosgrove, the LDAF communications director.

Cargile said that ExxonMobil first began paying out claims about two weeks ago. She provided an overview of the claims process for affected consumers to follow, but made a point to clarify that, despite the fact that "receipts are preferred," ExxonMobil "will definitely consider claims without a receipt."

"When a claim is submitted, consumers are being asked to provide information regarding their vehicle and receipts for fuel purchases and related expenses (such as towing or a rental car) if applicable. They will be asked where the fuel was purchased and when the fuel was purchased. They need to describe what symptoms occurred with the car. We can then refer them to recommended auto mechanics or service stations to determine whether they have the mechanical or engine indicators indicative of impacted fuel. Following receipt of the information from a consumer, ExxonMobil reviews all the information and then informs the consumer of the proposed adjustment," Cargile explained.

Cargile said that "not having a receipt" could be an important consideration for people who may have been advised by a mechanic of a fuel-related issue on a particular vehicle, but may not remember exactly where they purchased the fuel.

"ExxonMobil does not own gas stations anymore," said Cargile, who explained to KATC that ExxonMobil Baton Rouge sells to wholesalers, resale outlets, and retail stations that do business under a variety of operational names. Cargile said that ExxonMobil's vast distribution of products from the Baton Rouge refinery makes it problematic to supply a list of companies that were delivered gas containing the "atypical variation."

Cargile acknowledged that numerous media outlets have been requesting a list of affected gas stations from ExxonMobil. As of the KATC's latest Thursday morning communication with ExxonMobil, the company still has not provided the comprehensive list of retailers who sold the estimated 5 million gallons of bad gasoline, as previous reports have indicated, between March 12 and March 15.

"We started seeing the issue in mid-March in the marketplace, so that's around March 15. By April 5, we had reopened the gas racks at our terminal," Cargile recalls.

"The LDAF received a total of 59 complaints. Most were from the Greater Baton Rouge area (East Baton Rouge and Ascension Parishes). We received five complaints from the Lafayette area," Mosgrove stated.

Exxon continues to state that "all fuel products currently being made available by ExxonMobil in the Louisiana market meet the state's stringent regulatory requirements and are safe for use in vehicles."

Cargile added that, although the company has recommended mechanics to claimants, ExxonMobil is "not requiring that folks use an Exxon-specified mechanic" and that the company continues to "encourage motorists that have questions or concerns regarding fuel they may have purchased in the Baton Rouge area should contact ExxonMobil North America Customer Care at: 855-300-2659."

"I want to reiterate that each claim is thoroughly reviewed and ExxonMobil is committed to honoring all valid claims," Cargile said.

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