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    Shell Cuts Fuel Sales at 18 Ohio Stations

    Oil company says problem at stations owned by senator is "banking-related."

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Shell Oil has shut down gasoline sales at 18 Columbus-area stations operated by state Sen. Jeffrey Armbruster because of what it termed a "banking-related issue," reported the Columbus Dispatch.

    The stations stopped fuel sales abruptly Friday night and still were not selling it late Monday. Pumps remained bagged and price signs removed, though convenience stores and car washes remained open. Shell's 16 other central Ohio stations remain open.

    Shell said Armbruster owns the 18 stations and has a contract to sell gas for Shell. He leases the convenience stores and car washes from Shell and derives his revenues from their sales.

    Armbruster, a Republican from North Ridgeville, heads Armbruster Energy Enterprises of Westlake. Neither Armbruster nor company officials could be reached, but a woman who answered the phone at Armbruster's offices said they had no comment.

    Shell spokesman Shawn Frederick described the shutdown as "banking-related" but declined to elaborate. "We hope to have the problem resolved in the near future," he said. "I don't have an exact timetable yet. We're doing what we can to get the stations back in service as soon as possible."

    Frederick said it would be inappropriate to discuss details surrounding the issue. He stressed that the shutdown has nothing to do with Shell's gasoline supplies. "These are not the only Shell brand stations that exist in the Columbus market," he said.

    Managers and employees at Armbruster's stations referred questions to Shell. Their explanations for the shutdown ranged from a computer problem that rendered pumps inoperable to Shell unexplainably turning off pumps despite gas in the storage tanks. "That's a Shell decision," said one employee who declined to be identified.

    The lack of availability of gas perplexed loyal Shell customers, some of whom drove to several stations before giving up and buying another brand. "To go to your trusted station and find out that, yes, they have gas but can't sell it, it is heartbreaking and infuriating," said John W. Woods of Upper Arlington, who has been buying Shell gas since the 1980s. "I'm going to consider going to other stations."

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