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E90/E91/E92/E93 (2006 - 2013)
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  #1  
Old 11-10-2009, 07:08 PM
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An Independent Laboratory Analysis of Shell V-Power 93 vs Midgrade Gasolines

After reading a variety of threads regarding the merits of Top Tier premium octane gasolines, I thought I would use a work opportunity to do my own little bit of research on the fuel I routinely use in my 328i. The following is my analytical comparison of a "no-name" regular grade gasoline submitted to our laboratory for analysis, and a sample of Shell V-Power (93 octane) which was purchased expressly for this comparison.

Materials and Methods:
1) A sample of "presumed gasoline" was submitted by a client. The history of this sample was that it was in a tank at a car rental facility and the question was whether it was truly gasoline and okay to be used in automobiles.

2) A 100ml sample of Shell V-Power 93 gasoline was purchased from one of the two stations I routinely patronize for fuel purchases. The gasoline was collected in a clean glass container and hand carried to the lab for analysis.

3) Method used for this analysis: ASTM D-6623 (Determination of Individual Components in Spark Ignition Engine Fuels by High Resolution Gas Chromatography). This method quantifies only the hydrocarbon species between C1 (methane ) and C13 (tridecane) found in gasoline blending streams, and in this case fully formulated gasoline. It does not address sulfur or nitrogen species, nor does it identify specific detergent molecules.

Instrumentation:

Hewlett Packard 5890 Gas Chromatograph fitted with a Flame Ionization Detector and Autosampler, 30 Ám X 100m fused silica capillary column, sample injection volume = 0.1Ál.


Results:

A typical analysis of this type generates 150-350 individual components depending on the blending stream in question. In this case, 204 individual components were identified in the regular gasoline sample and 166 individual components were identified in the Shell V-Power 93 sample. All components present were identified at a detection limit of 100ppm.

The graphic is the GC trace overlay of the Regular and premium gasolines. Both samples were shot neat (without dilution) and relative concentrations of components are demonstrated by peak height.



The findings summarized in the table are as follows:

1) The sample sent in for analysis is a typical regular gasoline which contains 9.8% ethanol and has a Research Octane Number (RON) of 87.5. It followed a very typical pattern consistent with known values for a regular gasoline.

2) The Shell V-Power 93 sample while having a book value of 93 Octane, in fact demonstrated a Research Octane Number of 98 by this method. It contained 11.1% ethanol. This was a bit surprising as I expected the regular grade to contain more ethanol.




The components which contribute most significantly to the octane number of a gasoline are 'iso-octane' (specifically 2,2,4 Trimethylpentane, and the aromatic components (multisubstituted aromatics). From the samples, it is demonstrated that the Shell V-Power gasoline has significantly more aromatics, most noticeably a 2X concentration of Toluene relative to the regular gasoline. Across the board it is formulated to be a lighter, more volatile product than the regular gasoline.

I am not here to plug Shell gasoline, but this exercise finally definitively demonstrated to me that my observations regarding my gas mileage when I use the Shell Premium grade have a basis in factual data. Of course, YMMV.
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Last edited by Nordic_Kat; 11-16-2009 at 10:13 PM. Reason: Retitled.
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Old 11-10-2009, 07:14 PM
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Hi Kat, great stuff! You're preaching to the choir here, I use Shell 93 myself.
Is it possible for you to do more testing with other 'name' and 'no name' brands? That would really be interesting!
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Old 11-10-2009, 07:27 PM
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I've been using Shell 93 exclusively for several years now. I'm happy about the 98 octane but disappointed in the rather high 11.1% C2H5OH. My mileage has averaged 25.4 mpg, 70% highway (75-85 mph) over one year, which I consider to be quite good. The engine sound is sublime. No complaints.
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Last edited by hpowders; 11-10-2009 at 07:29 PM.
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Old 11-10-2009, 07:28 PM
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DSX,

Perhaps. I have a few other data sets from previous customers I might be able to compile. I just switched software packages for this analysis a few months ago from an ancient but very functional DOS program. My new software package handles things a little differently, but if I get some time, I'll dig out some raw data and convert it over. Our lab focuses on primarily process stream analyses for refineries and custom analyses for our upstream (E&P) customers. I wish I had in-house capability for total sulfur and total nitrogen analyses. I tend to weave my "research" projects into the work flow when I have other things to run on the same instruments.
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Old 11-10-2009, 07:34 PM
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Old 11-10-2009, 07:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hpowders View Post
I've been using Shell 93 exclusively for several years now. I'm happy about the 98 octane but disappointed in the rather high 11.1% C2H5OH. My mileage has averaged 25.4 mpg, 70% highway (75-85 mph) over one year, which I consider to be quite good. The engine sound is sublime. No complaints.
The high ethanol content is not surprising. Ethanol additives are the main tool refineries use to raise octane, something I only learned a week or two back.
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Old 11-10-2009, 07:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hpowders View Post
I've been using Shell 93 exclusively for several years now. I'm happy about the 98 octane but disappointed in the rather high 11.1% C2H5OH. My mileage has averaged 25.4 mpg, 70% highway (75-85 mph) over one year, which I consider to be quite good. The engine sound is sublime. No complaints.
Me too. I always thought I noticed a difference if I ran something other than the Shell 93 in my Honda -- now I know I wasn't dreaming. I was very amazed at the toluene value as well.
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Old 11-10-2009, 07:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kilgore Trout View Post
The high ethanol content is not surprising. Ethanol additives are the main tool refineries use to raise octane, something I only learned a week or two back.
I bet I'd be getting 26 mpg without the C2H6O. I have a full year's data of every fill-up and it irks me that my mpg has to be expressed as mpg*.

By the way my gas chromatograph is on the fritz (Agilent, 1999). I'll just assume the OP knows what she's talking about.
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Last edited by hpowders; 11-10-2009 at 07:46 PM.
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Old 11-10-2009, 07:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hpowders View Post
I bet I'd be getting 26 mpg without the C2H6O. I have a full year's data of every fill-up and it irks me that my mpg has to be expressed as mpg*.

By the way my gas chromatograph is on the fritz. I'll just assume the OP knows what she's talking about.
I thought you had a background in chemistry? When I was describing the instrument I thought I was channeling "George Wilbur" in My Cousin Vinny
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Old 11-10-2009, 07:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nordic_Kat View Post
I thought you had a background in chemistry? When I was describing the instrument I thought I was channeling "George Wilbur" in My Cousin Vinny
I do actually. I take pride in never breaking a Beckmann thermometer. Yes!!!

Organic chemistry was not my specialty. When I took OC, I instinctively deduced that those organic vapors I was being exposed to 8 hours a week were most likely carcinogenic. I got away from them as quickly as I could which wasn't very fast!
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"The VW GTI remains and will likely continue to be one of the finest compact sports cars in the world." Christian Seabaugh, Motortrend, March 27, 2012.

06/02/2005-09/02/2014: 9.25 great years on Bimmerfest!!!

Last edited by hpowders; 11-10-2009 at 08:31 PM.
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Old 11-10-2009, 08:06 PM
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Your results seem a foregone conclusion as the sample provided was "presumed gasoline" of unknown age.

There are so many proponents of Shell on this forum. I routinely use Shell but not at the expense of extra driving to get to a Shell station, in which I also use top tier Chevron and "76". It would be interesting to see Shell 93 compared to other top tier brands.
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Old 11-10-2009, 08:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hpowders View Post
I do actually. I take pride in never breaking a Beckmann thermometer. Yes!!!

Organic chemistry was not my specialty. When I took OC, I instinctively deduced that those organic vapors I was being exposed to 8 hours a week were most likely carcinogenic. I got away from them as quickly as I could.
Sounds like physical chemistry to me.
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Old 11-10-2009, 08:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vax View Post
Your results seem a foregone conclusion as the sample provided was "presumed gasoline" of unknown age.

There are so many proponents of Shell on this forum. I routinely use Shell but not at the expense of extra driving to get to a Shell station, in which I also use top tier Chevron and "76". It would be interesting to see Shell 93 compared to other top tier brands.
Now that would be a great comparo...Shell vs Chevron vs Mobil vs BP

PS...they all taste the same
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Old 11-10-2009, 08:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nordic_Kat View Post
Sounds like physical chemistry to me.
P. chem was a bit "dull". Never liked purely theoretical courses. I have a well-rounded MS in general chemistry degree-a bit of qual., quant., instrumental analysis, advanced organic and inorganic chemistry, advanced physical chemistry. Somehow it added up to a bit over 30 credits.

That was my other life. My current passions are classical music and opera, neither of which I can get enough of. Toluene I can do without, thanks.
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Last edited by hpowders; 11-10-2009 at 08:32 PM.
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Old 11-10-2009, 08:39 PM
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Originally Posted by slant83 View Post
Now that would be a great comparo...Shell vs Chevron vs Mobil vs BP

PS...they all taste the same
I would actually like to do the head to head comparison -- Most of the samples I get my hands on in the lab are only blending streams. We don't have BP stations here in Houston, even though their Houston campus is only about 2 miles away. Any donors?
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Old 11-10-2009, 08:45 PM
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OP, while I am a scientist, I'm no chemist and I certainly don't know much about gasoline formulation. I'm interested in your findings but am wondering about how much faith you can place in the GC of just one sample. While I'm sure your collection methodology is fine, wouldn't it be a stronger statement to check multiple samples from different stations? You'll probably need a larger data set to convince some folks. Interesting stuff though, thanks!
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Old 11-10-2009, 08:51 PM
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Great research! Have always used Shell V-Power 93 octane as well, have now for over a year in my N54. Used BP one time in an an emergency and I could have sworn the car felt more slugish.
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Old 11-10-2009, 09:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bbbuzzy View Post
OP, while I am a scientist, I'm no chemist and I certainly don't know much about gasoline formulation. I'm interested in your findings but am wondering about how much faith you can place in the GC of just one sample. While I'm sure your collection methodology is fine, wouldn't it be a stronger statement to check multiple samples from different stations? You'll probably need a larger data set to convince some folks. Interesting stuff though, thanks!
For an analytical test method to make it to the ASTM Standards, it is rigorously beat to death by hundreds of labs performing thousands of analyses. This particular method is well documented and is part of the greater ASTM gasoline specification D4814/4815. I would like to do a cross sampling of various brands, but this was mostly conducted for self edification. The fact that I happened to run a 'regular' fully formulated gasoline in the same sample batch was icing on the cake.
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Old 11-10-2009, 09:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vax View Post
Your results seem a foregone conclusion as the sample provided was "presumed gasoline" of unknown age.

There are so many proponents of Shell on this forum. I routinely use Shell but not at the expense of extra driving to get to a Shell station, in which I also use top tier Chevron and "76". It would be interesting to see Shell 93 compared to other top tier brands.
I took this into account. There are patterns/ratios of certain components which will change with weathering or aging. These are typically looked for in samples submitted for environmental forensics (i.e. spills). The "sample" gasoline submitted by the client was not from an environmental spill and did not exhibit weathering. While it did check out as a very typical "regular" grade gasoline, I certainly would not put it into my 328's tank, as it also had visible particulates and possibly water in it. Because of the olefin content of gasolines, they are inherently unstable formulations. Even refrigerated in pristine airtight containers, over time the olefins will self polymerize and form gummy residues.
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Old 11-10-2009, 09:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vax View Post
Your results seem a foregone conclusion as the sample provided was "presumed gasoline" of unknown age.

There are so many proponents of Shell on this forum. I routinely use Shell but not at the expense of extra driving to get to a Shell station, in which I also use top tier Chevron and "76". It would be interesting to see Shell 93 compared to other top tier brands.
+1 While I appreciate the effort that Kat put into this, I find it minimally helpful. How many of us even use 87 octane gasoline? She was comparing apples to oranges, and I do not see how it illuminates the title of the thread. It may very well be that Shell is the best, but I would like to see the testing done in comparison to its real competition.

Last edited by Fredric; 11-10-2009 at 09:34 PM.
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Old 11-10-2009, 09:33 PM
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Nordic Kat,

Thank you for your contribution. Like others here, I would like to have seen other fuels, specifically Shell V-Power in southern Ontario Canada, which Shell states contains no ethanol.

Oscar
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Old 11-10-2009, 09:37 PM
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Interesting results. V-Power 93 is the only gas I've used in my car.

The fact that a Shell station is selling any grade of gas with more than 10% ethanol really bothers me. I may need to get down on my knees and swear to the HPFP god that I will switch to Chevron on the next fill.
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Old 11-10-2009, 09:46 PM
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Old 11-10-2009, 09:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fredric View Post
+1 While I appreciate the effort that Kat put into this, I find it minimally helpful. How many of us even use 87 octane gasoline? She was comparing apples to oranges, and I do not see how it illuminates the title of the thread. It may very well be that Shell is the best, but I would like to see the testing done in comparison to its real competition.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oscar View Post
Nordic Kat,

Thank you for your contribution. Like others here, I would like to have seen other fuels, specifically Shell V-Power in southern Ontario Canada, which Shell states contains no ethanol.

Oscar
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Originally Posted by slant83 View Post
Now that would be a great comparo...Shell vs Chevron vs Mobil vs BP
Samples, folks! I would love to take a road trip and collect top tier gasolines from all over North America. However, something tells me that if I did that, I might not have a job where I could analyze them when I got back home

PM me and maybe we can work out sampling logistics and I can persuade my boss to let me do the study as a marketing mechanism.
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  #25  
Old 11-10-2009, 09:49 PM
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I'm all for a broader comparison of the 93 octanes of the big brands. How does one send you a sample of BP or whatever else is missing in your locale?
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