By Erwin Seba
HOUSTON (Reuters) - With Hurricane Idalia approaching, Florida authorities said on Tuesday that 17 Tampa-area gas stations supplied by Citgo Petroleum have been ordered to stop the sale of gasoline that had been contaminated by diesel fuel.
Another eight gas stations have resumed normal operations after cleaning the contaminated fuel out of their tanks, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said.
The snafu has complicated evacuations as Tampa area residents move away from the area ahead of Hurricane Idalia, which is forecast to make landfall on Wednesday north of Tampa.
Florida officials have warned motorists not to use vehicles filled over the weekend at Citgo-supplied stations, because the diesel may cause gasoline-powered engines to shut down.
Citgo said the contamination was the "result of a product routing issue" over the weekend at its terminal located at the Port of Tampa.
The Florida Agriculture Department said on Monday the contamination was "caused by human error" at the terminal located at the Port of Tampa.
Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.com, said most instances of contaminated fuel usually involve a single tanker truck.
"At this scale, it is unusual," De Haan said. "This sounds like it was a barge that was mishandled at the rack."
Large tanker trucks can carry over 200 barrels of gasoline, equal to 6,400 gallons.
Barges average between 10,000 and 30,000 barrels, the equivalent of 320,000 to 960,000 gallons.
(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Andy Sullivan)