tert-butyl ether replaces tetra-ethyl lead in
Methyl tert-butyl ether, also known as methyl tertiary butyl
ether and MTBE, is an organic compound with molecular formula
(CH3)3COCH3. MTBE is a
volatile, flammable and colorless
liquid that is sparingly soluble in water.
It has a minty odor
vaguely reminiscent of diethyl
ether, leading to unpleasant taste and odor in water.
MTBE is a gasoline additive,
used as an oxygenate to raise the octane number.
Its use became
controversial when found in ground water.
After that federal and state
legislation favored ethanol.
1992 MTBE is being used at
higher concentrations in some gasoline to fulfill the oxygenate requirements
set by Congress in Clean
Air Act amendments.
1996 Santa Monica
closes 7 of 11 drinking water wells in its Charnock well field after
discovering MTBE contamination.
1999 MTBE, manufactured by the chemical reaction of
butylene, is being produced in very large
quantities of more than 200,000 barrels per day in the US.
October 15, 2000 Chevron announces acquisition of
2001 An associate professor of chemistry at Purdue University
finds MTBE in gasoline supplies
in systems where the fuel additive is not required.
The study examines
200 samples of gas taken from stations in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan and
finds that over 70% of the samples contained MTBE and 25% of the samples
contained "significant amounts of MTBE.
One ounce of MTBE can
contaminate 1,000 tons of water.
California's Water Resources Control
Board reports 48 public water drinking systems serving hundreds of thousands of
residents have been contaminated with MTBE.
This is in addition to tens
of thousands of private wells throughout California and hundreds of thousands
of private wells nationwide.
Texaco, Equilon Enterprises
and Unocal settle a
lawsuit filed by an environmental group which requires the oil companies to
remediate MTBE ground water
contamination at a
minimum of 700 sites in California.
ExxonMobil agrees to pay $12
million in partial reimbursement of what South Lake Tahoe Public Utility to
remediate MTBE from ground
water which had to close 12 of its 34 drinking water wells.
2003 ChevronTexaco agrees to pay $9.1 million to settle a
lawsuit arising from MTBE ground
water contamination in Cambria, California.
2004 California Superior Court
judge approved a settlement agreement between a dozen firms and the City of
Santa Monica, California over
contamination with MTBE.
The settlement, which is valued at $312
million, includes $100 million in cash payments plus "a potentially unlimited obligation
to cleanup up the wells."
Defendants included in this settlement
ChevronTexaco, Chevron USA Inc., Chevron Products Co.,
Shell Oil, Shell Oil
Products, Shell Pipeline, Equilon Enterprises, Equilon Pipeline, Texaco
Refining, Thrifty Oil, and Best California Gas.
This is believed to be
the largest settlement to date for MTBE contamination.
New York State
had identified over 13,000 sites with ground water contamination by MTBE.
New York had allowed gasoline sold in the state to include 12 to 15%
MTBE, some of the highest mixtures in the nation.
has been discovered in ground water in 28 states and estimates of the costs to
cleanup the contamination range from $30 billion to $100 billion.
estimated costs to filter some 130 municipal drinking water wells in Plainview
Long Island (New York) ranges from $390 million to $1 billion.
has removes some 6,000 leaking underground storage tanks.
2005 oil companies agreed to pay nearly a half billion dollars to settle
lawsuits filed on behalf of municipalities over MTBE contaminated ground water.
2005 Worldwide production of MTBE has been constant at about
18 million tons/y owing to growth in Asian markets which are less subject to
ChevronTexaco agrees to settle a lawsuit by paying
$850,000 for ground water contamination with MTBE. The suit is filed by the Los
Osos Community Services District after MTBE from a former gas station
contaminated ground water and at least one drinking water well.
announced another settlement with a dozen oil companies over MTBE contaminated
ground water beneath Santa Monica, California.
The settling companies,
which will pay $1.5 million to end the suit, include:
Shell Oil; Shell Oil
Products; Equilon Enterprises; Shell Pipeline; TRM; ChevronTexaco; Chevron USA;
ExxonMobil; Mobil Oil; Thrifty Oil; and Best California Gas.
companies have already extracted nearly 350 million gallons of contaminated
Estimates of cleanup costs necessary to remediate MTBE
contaminated ground water nationwide run between $29 billion and $92 billion.
Some 140 municipalities and water companies have filed lawsuits against
petroleum industry defendants over ground water contamination with the fuel
Twelve oil companies, Premcor
Refining, Conoco, Tosco, Shell
Oil, Shell Oil Products, Phillips Petroleum, BP Products North America, BP
Amoco, Union Oil,
UNO-VEN, Citgo Petroleum, and PDV Midwest Refining LLC, have agreed to pay $8
million to the village of East Alton, Illinois to settle their liability for
drinking water wells contaminated with MTBE.
Two gas stations are
believed to be the source of the contamination.
Twenty-one US Senators
ask the EPA to provide them with information contained in a draft report being
reviewed by the agency that concludes that the gasoline additive MTBE should be
labeled a human carcinogen.
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