The Petroleum Technology Program is part of the Division of Measurement Standards within the Nevada Department of Agriculture. It works closely with the Weights and Measures Program.
The Petroleum Technology Program receives authority through Chapter 590 of the NRS, which mandates that the Board of Agriculture adopt standards concerning fuel and to test fuel sampled from retail outlets. This regulation ensures that a high quality, compliant product is delivered to the consumer. To enforce these standards, Weights and Measures conducts fuel sampling throughout the state and Petroleum Technology analyzes these samples. Together, the two groups then investigate any possible violations.
Our program objectives are the protection and promotion of:
- Nevada's air quality
- Consumer’s right to high quality fuels
- A fair marketplace for suppliers, retailers and customers
We place the highest priority on consumer complaints. Upon receipt of a complaint, we will, again in cooperation with Weights and Measures, act to determine if a fuel quality issue exists at a retail location and work with the consumer and the station to correct the situation.
The Program maintains two labs for analyzing fuel samples- one in Sparks, which analyzes fuel that was sampled in the northern half of the state; and the other in Las Vegas, which analyzes fuel sampled in the southern half. In addition, antifreeze and oil samples are tested at the Sparks facility. The labs are staffed by trained chemists.
Annually, the labs analyze nearly 3,000 samples, including all fuel products available for retail sale. Gasoline represents the bulk of the samples, but we also analyze diesel, aviation gasoline, jet fuel, kerosene and alternative fuels such as biodiesel and E85 (an ethanol-gasoline blend consisting of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline).
Samples are collected by Weights and Measures inspectors during the course of their device inspections from gas stations and other retailers throughout the state.
The Program works closely with the Air Quality Boards in both Clark and Washoe County to reduce air pollution by adopting fuel standards that will reduce polluting compounds produced during fuel combustion.
The Program also works with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has named Washoe and Clark County as areas which must control emissions through oxygenating gasoline during the winter. This designation means that during a defined “oxygenation season”, retailers in the two counties must sell only gasoline containing at least a minimum percentage of oxygenate, such as ethanol. The Bureau offers assistance to the Air Quality Divisions of the counties to monitor and comply with the EPA requirements. Consequently, during this “season”, additional samples are provided to the lab by county Air Quality inspectors and analyzed solely for their compliance to the oxygenation mandate.
On the topic of ethanol, the Renewable Fuels Standard, has set a goal that every gallon of gasoline in the United States contain ethanol. As a result, nearly all of the gasoline sold in Nevada contains ethanol, even areas outside of Clark and Washoe County and outside of the oxygenation season. As a result, we routinely test to ensure that retailers are being compliant with Nevada’s allowed maximum of 10 percent ethanol.
The Program has helped establish specifications for alternative fuels as approved by the Division of Environmental Protection in NAC 486A. These specifications include hydrogen, methanol, ethanol and biodiesel. At this time, there is still limited usage in Nevada of these alternative fuels, but the Bureau is continuing to research methods for testing the new standards.