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Kodiak mechanics find strange liquid in some fuel tanks, and say contaminated fuel is to blame

Contaminated fuel with the strange fluid sinking to the bottom. Via Pat Anderson
Contaminated fuel with the strange fluid sinking to the bottom. Via Pat Anderson

Kodiak drivers have reported filling up with contaminated fuel from Petro Express, near Safeway on Mill Bay Road. The incident has involved nearly a dozen drivers over a four day period in early March.

According to drivers and local mechanics, the fuel issues began on Saturday, March 4 and were reported until Tuesday, March 7.

James Dixon was one patron who gassed up on the city’s Tax-Free day that Saturday, an annual day the city of Kodiak allows businesses to forgo charging customers a sales tax. He and his partner drove to Near Island, nearly 3 miles away, and Dixon says their car was running completely fine until they got gas from Petro Express.

“I started the car and warmed it up for five minutes because it’s wintertime, y’know it’s freezing,” he said. “And we drove there just fine and two miles down the road after we got gas – it felt like the engine was going to explode.”

They were able to drive home, however the car had to be towed to an auto shop later. After mechanics took a look at their car, they learned their fuel was contaminated and repairs would cost them around $1,500.

Pat Anderson is the manager of The Truck Shop in Kodiak. He’s serviced four vehicles for contaminated fuel this week. Anderson has been taking fuel samples and says they have no idea what they’ve pumped out of the affected cars.

“It’s a very heavy liquid and it’s very opaque – like you can’t shine a flashlight through it,” he said. “If I showed it to you and I asked you what it was you would probably say it looks like coffee creamer. It’s got like a really weird metallic tint to it, like it sparkles under light a lot.”

In his years of testing fuel samples, Anderson says he’s never seen a substance like it before.

Anderson says he’s been in contact with a corporate representative for Petro Express, and the company has agreed to pay the repairs for cars affected by contaminated fuel.

“They still don’t know what it is but he is paying for the affected cars,” he said. “He’s got a list of cars that were affected and that’s huge.”

Not everyone who filled up at Petro Express during that time period reported problems, and it’s unclear how many vehicles were affected. At least two local mechanics reported either servicing or hearing of about a dozen vehicles with the same problem. Others posted about car issues on a popular community Facebook page.

Anderson says anyone who filled up during the four-day window and suspects contaminated fuel in their engine should get their car checked by a professional immediately. He also recommends anyone who has gotten fuel from Petro Express to put HEET, a fuel additive, into their tanks.

The Truck Shop has since sent samples to Blackstone Labs, a fuel testing company.

Petro Marine General Manager Russel Cooper says the company has launched an investigation into the contaminated fuel, however he did not provide any additional details.