O. Wayne Eakin will step down from the command of American Fuel Technologies Inc., the ethanol maker he helped found six years ago that has been flooded by a continuous stream of red ink.

Eakin will be replaced as the company's chief executive officer by Chairman Wayne G. English, American Fuel Technologies announced yesterday. English, formerly chief financial officer at MCI Communications Corp., formally joined the company in July after serving for several months as a financial consultant.

Eakin was unavailable for comment yesterday, but another company executive indicated that, although his departure was "amicable," the company's directors were anxious to take steps to turn the company's fortunes around.

"The decision to do this stemmed from the fact that the company had not been profitable and that stronger financial direction was needed," said Thomas P. Tanis Jr., the firm's executive vice president.

American Fuel Technologies was established in 1979, spurred in part by government subsidies and tax credits for the development of ethanol as an alternative energy source. The company used corn from the Maryland Eastern Shore farms surrounding its plant to produce ethanol, a substance that has been found to boost gasoline octane levels and that can be used in place of lead to improve performance.

The company, originally called American Synfuels Corp., has not been able to cover its costs. Net losses totaled $4.4 million for the fiscal year ended May 31, Tanis said.

Tanis said American Fuel Technologies is closing its two domestic production plants in Federalsburg, Md., and Oklahoma temporarily to concentrate on a new joint venture it has undertaken with Savannah Food Industries of Georgia.