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26 January, 2020 12:08:58 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 26 January, 2020 03:05:48 PM

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‘Low-grade’ petrol a major concern

BPC high-level meet with state minister today
SHAHED SIDDIQUE with FAISAL MAHMUD, Dhaka
‘Low-grade’ petrol a major concern

Substandard and adulterated petrol continue to be sold at filling stations across the country, causing a double menace of damage to automobile engines and environmental pollution from excessive carbon emissions. As per the Bangladesh Standards & Testing Institution (BSTI) standard, the minimum octane number for fuel oil sold as petrol is 87.

But fuels supplied across the county from distributors fall well below this octane standard, with tests revealing octane numbers of 80 and below. As a result, vehicle owners are forced to buy substandard petrol from filling stations across the country.

To address the matter, the Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) has recently suggested that the refineries use boosters to increase the octane number in petrol supplied across the country.

An octane rating, or octane number, is a standard measure of the performance of an engine or aviation fuel. The higher the octane number, the more compression the fuel can withstand before detonating (igniting). In broad terms, fuels with a higher octane rating are used in high-performance gasoline engines that require higher compression ratios.

When contacted by The Independent, BPC Chairman Shamsur Rahman said: “We have been discussing this issue for the last few years. We have some options to meet the BSTI standard. Those can be implemented after a meeting with the minister concerned.”

In light of the situation, a high-level meeting has been scheduled for today to decide on the steps needed to increase the octane number in petrol. The meeting will be presided over by State Minister for Power and Energy Nasrul Hamid. Managing directors of petroleum product producer companies will be present at the meeting.

According to sources in the BPC, most petrol stations are selling petrol having the octane number below 80.

“We have tested the octane number of petrol at the Eastern Refinery. The octane number found was 80, which is well below the global standard,” a source told The Independent.  

“We have 14 fractionation plants that refine local condensates extracted from gas fields to produce petrol and diesel. There are some other off-spec by-products. Though the BSTI has set the octane number of petrol at 87, local plants supply petrol having the octane number of 80. Sometimes, the BPC mixes its petrol with high-quality imported petrol or local octane. But the main issue is that the octane number of local petrol fails to meet the standard,” said a government official.

Of late, the BPC has also made some recommendations that have been sent to the ministry concerned to take steps to stop the prevalence of adulterated petroleum products. These recommendations include mixing of bio-ethanol, boosting petroleum products with bio-chemical fuel markers, enforcing a standardised mixing with proper ration, and reducing condensate prices.  

In developed countries, some gas stations may offer up to five different petrol ratings, including a super premium that typically has a rating of 93. But regular petrol ratings start from 87. In India, for instance, the minimum octane number required for sale of petrol is 91.

Adulteration of fuels mainly involves adding kerosene or diesel to petrol. Global statistics on adulteration indicate that 70 per cent of drivers and mechanics experience this problem in petrol engines and rarely on diesel and compressed natural gas (CNG) engines. There has been hardly any data in Bangladesh, but the rising consciousness in tailpipe emission levels has prompted some action towards curbing adulteration.

This flourishing business has resulted in big losses in revenue, deterioration of engine parts, and increased emission levels that are harmful to our environment. The problem is aggravated in modern engines because of the refined systems tailored for better atomisation of fuels. Engine malfunctions, failure of components, and compromised safety are results of using adulterated fuel.

Increased emissions of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, and particulate matter intoxicate the air from such fuels. Experts say health problems could result from harmful tailpipe emissions and cancer-causing pollutants, though not all forms of adulteration are harmful. For instance, small amounts of kerosene added to petrol record insignificant changes in tailpipe emissions. Kerosene mixed with petrol, however, results in higher emissions because they do not form a uniform mixture, leading to incomplete combustion and even more particulate products.

ATM Saifullah, an automobile engineer with motor vehicle distributor Navana Ltd, said high levels of sulphur in petrol compromises the conversion properties of engine pollutants on the catalysts, leading to engine deposit formation and engine knock. “Poor handling of the fuel at adulteration points also leads to pollution and further dereliction of the soil,” he added.

Adulteration of fuels is a global problem and many countries are putting in measures to curb it.

Saifullah said that for a long time, small- and medium-sized petroleum resellers were blamed for adulterated fuels, but investigation by energy authorities has revealed that fuel adulteration is also being carried out by branded resellers run by unscrupulous individuals. The use of low-quality petrol leaves many motorists in a precarious situation because they have a lot of trust in branded petrol stations, he added.

“Many countries have adopted custom security seals from their respective governments and revenue authorities. They are also cracking down on cartels that supply such fuels. If such measures are taken in Bangladesh, it would be easy to curb the menace of adulterated petroleum products,” he said.

MK

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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