Failsafe at the Gas Station

November 27, 2008

Failsafe at the Gas Station
~James Dunn

Currently aircraft and industrial equipment sometimes are filled with the wrong fuel and it may have catastrophic consequences. Also, in the near future, many different fuel products may be available for different engines. Biodesiel, vegetable oil, ethanol, hydrogen peroxide, … Having different shapes and sizes for each different fuel type and grade is a bad idea, it would be very expensive and unnecessarily restrictive.

I propose retrofitting a small RFID chip (<$0.10) onto a fuel resistant adhesive package (1/2 the size of a dime or smaller) that could be purchased at any Auto Parts store and have the customer place the RFID near the fuel inlet of all their fuel tanks. Then require all fuel pumps to be retrofited with an RF transciever at the nozzle so that the correct fuel is automatically selected, ore when the wrong fuel is selected for a vehicle that for manual pumps an alarm sounds, and for digital pumps the pump shuts off and gives an alarm message, which can be over-ridden by the customer and automatically documented in the pump history. This provides a mechanism where one fuel nozzle can be used for a number of different fuels.

The cost and how to implement:

This way it is up to the customer to retrofit their vehicles and equipment, but it will be inexpensive enough for them to do so easily. Gas stations might even supply the correct RFID for free with a fill up.

The main expense will be at the gas pumps. The gas companies could be mandated to provide a larger margin of profit for each gallon sold (currently $0.08 / gallon) by fuel stations. For example: A station purchases 1000 gallons of gas from the oil company. They are given $0.18 / gallon sold instead of the current $0.08 / gallon. That’s $100 extra per tank purchased. The oil company tracks how many gas pumps the station has and how much fuel is sold to that station. Let’s say each pump costs $60 to retrofit (reasonable considering the large scale of purchases and modifications). Then a station with six(6) pumps only has to refill their tanks 4 times to cover their costs and for the oil company to revert to their $0.08 / gallon payment to the station.

This would also allow for future custom fuels to take advantage of the same system, like: fuel oil, aircraft fuels, kerosene, hydrogen peroxide, vegetable oil, bio-desiel, ethanol, … If you have a vehicle that can not take anything except a specific type or grade of fuel, you can lock all other fuels out by having the right chip mounted near your fuel intake. Or as mentioned earlier, automatically select the right fuel for your vehicle.

“Fuel Pump” refers to the gas station fuel nozzle for filling your car, truck, airplane, …

Currently, a diesel fuel fill port is larger than the gasoline fuel nozzle. What occassionally happens is someone will add gas to diesel car like a Mercedes. A well meaning teenager perhaps. What can happen is that gas is much more volitile and the diesel engine will run much faster for the same amount of fuel injected, so the engine RPM ramps up very high, and in some cases damages the engine. This is worse for larger diesel engines.

As for aircraft fuel, there are numerous private aircraft pilots with a similar problem. A passenger with good intent wants to help and makes ready the fuel hose for the pilot standing on the ladder. Unfortunately, only the color of the fuel and what is posted on the pump will tip off the pilot if they are paying attention. If not, after a short flight, the engine could run rough and fail; or after a prolonged flight the engine could seize up.


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