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June 16, 2013

Caltex Reminds Public of Dangers of Static Electricity When Refueling

The rainy season is here and so are thunderstorms. Though motorists have little to fear from lighting strikes, Chevron Philippines Inc. (CPI), marketer of the Caltex brand of fuels and lubricants, reminds drivers that there is a different kind of electricity that all motorists should be aware of.  Static electricity has been known to cause fires in in gasoline stations.

A video in YouTube (search gas station fire, static electricity starts flash fire) shows a woman refueling at gas station when suddenly the nozzle catches fire.  What happened is that the woman gets in the car again while refueling. Static electricity caused by friction with the car seat builds up in her. When she reaches for the nozzle there was a discharge of static electricity which ignites the fuel vapor. It’s a miracle the woman did not get burned.

The Petroleum Equipment Institute (PEI) has found that static electricity— the same thing that zaps you after you drag your feet on the carpet— can ignite gasoline vapors at the pump. Since 1992, almost 200 incidents have been reported to PEI that appear to be caused by static electrical discharge.

Friction with the car seats and carpet generates electrostatic charges in the driver and passengers’ body.  The body voltage rises due to this charge. When occupants reach to touch the vehicle door, the electrostatic discharge and shock occurs as their hand approaches the metal door.  If voltage is not discharged through the car, electrostatic will discharge through the next thing that the driver touches like the fuel pump nozzle which may be surrounded by flammable vapor especially during refueling.

Mike Gotardo, CPI Health, Environment and Safety Specialist for Asia Pacific, advises drivers “to always turn of engines when refueling, never re-enter vehicle while refueling, and never smoke while refueling.  Caltex service stations have helpful attendants who do all the refueling for motorists. The golden rule is to leave the refueling to the professionals.”

“If fuel must be handled, say to power up generators during brownouts, use only approved containers. Place the container on the ground. Remove plastic handles. Use bare hands so that you ground yourself.  Do not use rubber gloves and synthetic materials, such as nylon or polypropylene rope.  Do not remove clothing, such as jacket or sweater where flammable vapors might exist, as these might cause a static spark,” Gotardo adds.

CPI supports a culture of safety and environmental stewardship that strives to achieve world-class performance and prevent all incidents.

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