ExxonMobil probes possible gasoline problem in BR

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- ExxonMobil seen with its docks on the Missisippi River. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- ExxonMobil seen with its docks on the Missisippi River.

ExxonMobil shut down its Baton Rouge terminal gasoline loading racks Wednesday while it investigates a “potential issue” with fuel being sold at select locations around the city.

“We have shut down the Baton Rouge terminal gasoline loading racks while the investigation continues,” ExxonMobil said in a statement. “We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused our customers and motorists.”

ExxonMobil would not elaborate on the statement. The company said it would release updated information about the closure later Thursday.

A spokeswoman with the Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Veronica Mosgrove, said since Friday the agency has gotten 17 complaints from consumers who had issues with getting bad gasoline, with the bulk of calls coming on Wednesday.

In response, Mosgrove said agents from the department’s weights and measures division, which regulates the sale and quality of motor fuels in the state, went to three different Baton Rouge stations to investigate the gasoline that was being sold. But she said the tests didn’t indicate any issues with water getting in the gasoline tanks or ethanol.

“Nothing unusual showed up,” Mosgrove said.

Ronnie Collette, owner of R.A. Collette Oil Co. of Central, said he received a memo Wednesday morning from ExxonMobil that the main terminal on Scenic Highway was shut down, advising him to pick up at alternative sources.

For him, those sources are the Placid Refinery in Port Allen and a refinery in Kenner.

Collette said ExxonMobil didn’t disclose the problem, but he wasn’t concerned because it’s not unusual for the terminal to shut down when loading racks or the refinery are being updated.

Collette distributes gasoline to 14 convenience stores or gas stations, mainly in the Baton Rouge, Gonzales and Denham Springs area.

“I haven’t heard anybody complain about anything,” Collette said.

A representative with Lavigne Oil in Baton Rouge, who would not give her name, said one of its customers had a problem with bad gasoline. Lavigne provides gasoline to fleets and gas stations.

Lavigne is waiting to hear from ExxonMobil on how to handle the issue. The company said it is “pretty rare” to have issues with bad fuel originating from the terminal.

The Advocate called several service stations and dealerships around Baton Rouge to see if they had seen cases of people bringing in cars that had been filled with bad gas. Representatives with Gordon & Sandifer Auto Service, Brian Harris Chevrolet and Diamond Mazda said they have not seen any cases lately of cars filled with bad gasoline.

Price LeBlanc Toyota and Brian Harris BMW Mini did not return phone calls.