European edition, Thursday, May 31, 2007

RAF MILDENHALL, England — The Army and Air Force Exchange Service has secured a nearly $60,000 payment from a British energy firm to compensate motorists affected by the batch of tainted fuel that struck at least two U.S Air Force bases in England earlier this year.

The $58,692 payment from Harvest Energy will be distributed among 85 claimants who filed for compensation after the London-based energy firm delivered an undisclosed quantity of silicon-laced unleaded fuel to both RAFs Mildenhall and Alconbury, according to AAFES spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Konop.

The payment, which averages to roughly $705 per claimant, is expected to be distributed in the coming weeks, Konop said. Each claimant, however, will receive an amount based on his individual case.

“Basically, what they’ve claimed as lost, they will get repaid,” Konop said. “Hopefully, they will have their money by the end of June.”

AAFES still is working on the details as to whether claimants will pick up checks on base or receive them in the mail. AAFES received 90 claims in connection with the fouled fuel, but five of those cases remain under investigation, he said.

AAFES’ announcement of the compensation package should effectively close an affair that began about three months ago when Harvest Energy delivered the silicon-tainted fuel to dozens of gas stations across the region, including three of Britain’s largest supermarket chains.

The silicon-fouled oxygen sensors on some makes and models, prompting a flood of motorists into mechanics and garages for repairs that ran between $300 and $1,000.

An independent testing company determined that the tainted fuel had been delivered to RAFs Mildenhall and Alconbury, but dozens of motorists from nearby RAF Lakenheath also filed claims in connection with the incident.

Britain’s largest supermarket chain announced earlier this month that it has paid $16 million to thousands of motorists who bought the silicon-tainted fuel at Tesco.

This round of legal filings is the second time in the past two years that the Air Force has collected legal claims in relation to Harvest Energy.

In 2005, the company accidentally filled unleaded tanks with diesel fuel that affected an unknown number of motorists.

The Defense Energy Support Center is in its third year of a five-year contract with Harvest Energy valued at $15 million, according to center spokesman Patrick Jones.

Harvest Energy is one of five British energy firms that supply fuel to the military, Jones said.

The silicon-laced fuel was traced to an Essex gas depot that also supplied gas to one of Harvest’s competitors, according to an independent probe by the British Trading Standards Institute.

Silicon is used as an anti-foaming agent in diesel fuel, but it remains unclear how the material was mixed with unleaded fuel. The Trading Standards Institute is still investigating the incident.

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