ChevronTexaco Corp. said Wednesday that its California stations would begin phasing out the environmentally harmful gasoline additive known as MTBE this weekend, joining a growing list of stations that will offer MTBE-free fuel statewide this year.
The San Ramon-based company is the state's second- largest gasoline retailer and the last of California's major suppliers to announce its plans for phasing out MTBE, or methyl tertiary butyl ether.
Chevron stations will start selling gasoline with ethanol this weekend, with all of its Southern California stations to be MTBE-free by May, the company said. All 1,200 of Chevron's gasoline stations in California will convert to ethanol by year's end.
Oil companies are under state order to remove MTBE by that deadline because of water contamination problems from MTBE leaking from underground gas storage tanks.
ConocoPhillips finished converting its 76 brand stations in California in July. BP's Arco, the No. 1 retailer; Shell Oil Co.'s Shell and Texaco stations; and ExxonMobil Corp.'s Mobil stations have plans to eliminate MTBE from their gasoline in the next few months.
With the addition of Chevron, more than 80% of the state's gasoline supply will be MTBE-free in the next few months. Valero Energy Corp. -- operator of Exxon, Beacon, Valero and Ultramar stations -- and many independent gas stations will continue selling fuel with the additive for now.
Separately, ConocoPhillips said Wednesday that it would sell "a substantial portion" of the gas stations it owns. The company declined to say how many it would close or to specify which regions would be affected.
Representatives of the Houston-based company could not immediately say how many of its 1,200 76 brand stations in California are company-owned.