Fuel contamination concerns plague Brisbane NightOwl Shell Wakerley service station

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A petrol station operator said it was investigating claims of tainted fuel from a site in east Brisbane as more customers show up with tales of broken down vehicles and fuel bills costly repairs.

In early March, the ABC reported that a number of motorists had refueled at the NightOwl service station in Wakerley, only to find they could not drive their vehicles off the premises or had stopped work after they leave.

Some customers, like David Fife’s son Nixon, had filled up when heavy rains flooded lower parts of the city in late February.

Since then, Mr Fife said he had heard from dozens of people who had encountered the same problem on the site.

He said he recently spoke with the gas station owner and another NightOwl Convenience representative and was shown the quality control procedures, but the meeting ended shortly after. .

The ABC heard from five other customers about the problems they faced after buying fuel at the gas station.

A woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said she filled up at NightOwl Wakerley petrol station on June 28, four months after Brisbane’s last flood.

“I have a whole series of emails between me and the owner,” she said.

“The RACQ said earlier this year in an ABC story that this is a rare occurrence, but it doesn’t appear to be rare at all.

The woman said she and her husband filled up their car but parked it in their garage for six days before using it to bring items to the Chandler Resource Recovery Center. Along the way, a warning light came on on the dashboard.

They had their car towed to Isuzu Cleveland and the mechanic told them there was water in their fuel.

Their car was a 2020 Isuzu MU-X and had had no problems before.

“It cost us $1,000 to drain the fuel and fix the car,” she said.

“Because we had bought the fuel six days before, put it in the garage and drove the old car for the rest of the week, we were lucky the water didn’t get into the fuel tank. engine.”

Alf Stanley, a Cleveland resident, had borrowed a van from a friend and was helping him make deliveries when he filled up at NightOwl Wakerley a month ago.

“I filled up with diesel and didn’t get very far,” he said.

He said NightOwl checked the fuel and thought everything was fine.

Mr Stanley said it cost over $600 to have the tank flushed and the fuel filter replaced and lost three days of work, not to mention the $140 he paid for diesel which had to be drained.

“All in all, that’s quite a bit of money lost,” Mr Stanley said.

“I have spoken to the site fuel supplier and they have told me that once the fuel is delivered to the site it is no longer their responsibility.”

He said some residents had refused to go there since February this year because they feared the site would be regularly flooded.

Customer refusing to pay repair bill

Another east Brisbane resident, Tanya Savage, stocked up on June 2.

“My car is still at the repair shop and there’s an $8,200 bill to fix it,” she said.

“I sent [NightOwl Wakerley] my bill, but [they said] I have no water contamination in my fuel and that case will go no further.

“Surely I couldn’t be the only person this is happening to.”

Ms Savage says she bought the water-contaminated fuel from a petrol station in east Brisbane.(Provided: Tanya Savage)

Ms Savage said she took the pot of contaminated fuel to the filling station and left it there to be inspected, but heard nothing.

“I’m lucky I can afford insurance and it will cover the bill to fix it, but that’s the principle,” she said.

Alan Chambers lives three minutes from the NightOwl petrol station and was last filled in February this year.

“I only filled it up because it was convenient and it sold the cheapest fuel in the area,” the Manly West resident said.

“I filled up my Triton – $50 diesel and on leaving the fuel filter light came on.

“I had just spent $2,000 replacing the fuel tank a few months earlier.

“My mechanic provided me with a video report, and there was more bullshit than there was diesel.

“It cost me $900 to get a new line, filter and clean it.”

Mr Chambers also contacted Viva Energy, who said it was not their problem once they had delivered fuel to the store.

“I sent the video from Barton’s [mechanic]the receipt of the work carried out, the receipt of the filling [to NightOwl Wakerley]and they said they sold 10,000 liters that day with no problem, and they had to go to my insurer to get reimbursed,” he said.

On August 19, Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association CEO Mark McKenzie said Night Owl Wakerley had “received a small number of customer complaints about mechanical issues following the Queensland floods in March 2022, which suggested the presence of water in underground reservoirs”.

Mr McKenzie said ‘immediate testing did not identify any fuel quality issues in the underground tanks’.

“The company continued to receive a small number of inconsistent complaints between April and early June, where a very small number of customers complained of fuel quality issues,” he said.

“This despite the fact that the majority of customers have not experienced any issues. Further investigation revealed an integrity issue with the supply line to one of the petrol pumps on the forecourt and the pump was immediately decommissioned (early June).

“Since then, the company has been working with affected customers to finance the repair of their vehicles. This case was extremely unusual and Night Owl has not received any fuel quality complaints at the Wakerley site since June.

“When water-contaminated fuel enters a car’s fuel tank, it sinks directly to the bottom and is sucked into the engine almost immediately after refueling, causing the vehicle to ‘jump’. that occur after long periods of driving – or days later – are almost never related to fuel quality.

“Night Owl takes all fuel quality complaints seriously and has a formal fuel complaints process which is fully compliant with Queensland consumer protection laws and Australian fuel industry practices. fuels recommended by ACAPMA – the national industry body for service stations in Australia.”

Mr McKenzie said those who believe they have received contaminated fuel should “immediately stop the vehicle and contact their mechanic; have their mechanic take a fuel sample and then provide a fuel sample and a mechanic’s report to the service station company for action; and, if they are not satisfied with the outcome, they should contact the Queensland Office of Fair Trading”.

In a previous statement, NightOwl Convenience HQ said, “NightOwl is currently investigating this claim.”

NightOwl Wakerley Shell also said: “NightOwl is investigating the issue. [We] will make a statement when it’s over.”

What to do if your fuel is contaminated

RACQ senior technical researcher Andrew Kirk said customers who believe they have purchased contaminated fuel can also contact the fuel supplier’s head office.

He also recommended filing a complaint with the Queensland Office of Fair Trading and the Commonwealth National Measurement Institute, which was responsible for fuel quality.

“These things shouldn’t be happening, and it comes down to the seal around the fuel tank,” he said.

“It’s not a common case.

“Most of the time when the water comes in, it’s when the tanker comes in, that’s the part that’s open and closed, open and closed, and any water can flow out.

“The fuel can’t come out until the water overflows it.”

Mr Kirk said if customers suspect their fuel is contaminated they should stop driving the car immediately.

“Once the fuel has been drained they will normally not have any permanent problems. The water in the diesel in a modern diesel engine will be recovered quickly and most four wheel drive vehicles have a water trap and warning light. warning lights up.

“There’s nothing you can do to predict the problem. You can’t check the fuel in advance.”

He also advised motorists not to refuel immediately after heavy rain and flooding.

“It’s also better to fill up at larger gas stations where they get a higher fuel turnover, than at smaller places that fill up once a week,” he said.

“Whereas a bigger BP could fill up every two days and there would be a higher probability of catching the problem.”

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