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PEI Issues Refueling Hazard Warning

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

The Petroleum Equipment Institute (PEI), an international petroleum equipment association,
has issued motorists a warning to be cautious of static electricity at gasoline pumps,
which can potentially cause a fire and result in serious injury and property damage. The
Tulsa, Oklahoma-based institute recently began a process of documenting automotive
refueling fires. This was prompted by a sharp increase of incidents that could not be
attributed to a running engine or cigarette smoking, the leading known causes of such
fires. To date, more than 150 refueling fires have been documented that appear to be caused
by a discharge of static electricity. While PEI continues to collect data on accidents, it
appears that static electricity is most often generated when motorists get back into their
vehicles while refueling, said Robert N. Renkes, executive vice president. “While filling
up their vehicles with gasoline, many motorists will return to their cars to stay warm,
make a phone call, or retrieve their purse or wallet,” he said. “When they slide out of
their vehicle, a static charge is generated. Then, when they touch the nozzle, a spark can
ignite fuel vapors around the nozzle.” Studies indicate these accidents occur mostly during
the winter season in cold- and dry-climate conditions. The institute has documented more
than 150 incidents of static ignition at the fuel pump nationwide, with more than half
reported since 1999. It is estimated, however, that there are hundreds of unreported
incidents per year. Accidents are especially prevalent among women. Renkes said he believes
women tend to re-enter their car more often to retrieve purses and money, stay out of the
weather, or care for children. Out of an estimated 16 to 18 billion fuelings a year in the
United States, most are safe nonevents that pose no danger to consumers. But, according to
Renkes, all motorists should be aware of the potential that re-entering their car will
create static electricity that can cause a fire. “We are launching a public-information
program to get the word out,” Renkes said. “Our message is simple — stop static. Some
retailers have placed signs on gasoline pumps notifying consumers of the danger, but
motorists don’t always read pump signs.” For more information, call (918) 494-9696 or visit

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