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    Shell, Texaco Customers Seek Refunds

    Approximately 70,000 claim automobile damage caused by faulty fuel.

    MIAMI -- Approximately 70,000 claims have been filed due to the fuel-quality problem that shut down Shell and Texaco stations in May, reported the Miami Herald.

    Some 25,000 Floridians have sought reimbursement for damage to their automobiles that they claim was caused by faulty fuel sold by Shell and Texaco gas stations, Shell Oil Products disclosed.

    The fuel-quality fiasco that shut down Shell and Texaco stations over the Memorial Day weekend impacted other companies as well. BP, ConocoPhillips, Colonial Oil and Valero Energy Corp. were all supplied with the substandard fuel from a Port Everglades terminal operated by Motiva Enterprises, a refiner partially owned by Shell, a Shell spokesman said. Those companies, however, reported few -- if any -- complaints from customers.

    Overall, Shell said it has received about 70,000 claims from drivers in Florida and Louisiana -- up from about 9,000 on June 1. The fallout resulted from elemental sulfur found in gasoline originating from the Houston-based Motiva's refinery in Norco, La.

    The sulfur can corrode the silver electrical contact on the gas-gauge sensor in some vehicles, causing the fuel gauge to indicate the tank is full when it's actually less than full or empty.

    Shell and Texaco stations initially halted sales of regular and mid-grade fuels after the problem surfaced May 27. But by the next day, all of the pumps were turned off at 450 Florida stations. Gas sales resumed at all affected stations by June 2.

    Shell Oil Products spokesman Shawn Frederick wouldn't say how much the mishap has cost. Considering the cost to replace a gas-gauge sensor ranges from about $150 to more than $1,000 in some high-performance cars, the figure will likely run into the tens of millions of dollars.

    ''We are working diligently to reimburse affected customers and to resolve claims,'' Frederick said.

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