Over 30 service stations across Devon and Cornwall were unable to sell unleaded petrol over one of the busiest weekends of the holiday season after a problem with petrol delivered by Valero Energy.

Areas where service stations were affected included Bideford, Lynton, Okehampton, Plymouth, Tavistock and Torrington in Devon, and St Austell in Cornwall, and brands affected included Texaco, Pace and Morrisons.

Valero could not say how the problem came to light but service stations were phoned on Friday morning and warned there was a possible problem with “off spec” unleaded petrol and advised not to sell any.

The company arranged for the product to be removed and it said it believed every affected service station had been restocked by the end of Monday.

Lesley Goodman, who owns the Pace-branded Barbrook Service Station in Lynton, said they had their usual Friday morning delivery at around 9am, but shortly after she received a call from Certas warning her about potential contamination of the unleaded petrol and advising her not to sell it.

She said the suspect fuel was uplifted around mid afternoon on Sunday and the delivery was replaced on Monday afternoon enabling them to re-start unleaded sales at around 5pm.

She said the problem had occurred at the worst possible time for business, as it was the busiest period of the year for the tourist destination.

She explained: “It wasn’t just the unleaded sales. If people think there is a problem they tend to avoid you. Diesel sales were also down and shop sales were well down. This has put a big dent in our income and I will have to see what financial damage this has caused.”

A Certas representative was due to visit on Wednesday to update her and she hoped to find out what help they would be able to provide.

Lesley said the problem for customers was particularly acute in Lynton because the next nearest service station is 12 miles away in Combe Martin, and she praised the two petrol stations there for helping out.

“They provided us with gallon cans of unleaded so that if anyone came in and they were really in the red then we could sell them enough to get to the next station,” she said.

Valero Energy released a statement saying: “As a precaution, fuel was uplifted from around 33 service stations in the South West that may have been affected by potential off spec unleaded petrol.

“We appreciate that this may have caused problems for some retailers in the South West, but it is always Valero’s priority to ensure that the integrity of our fuel is not compromised. All affected service stations were re-stocked by Monday.”