Call for proper standards for pump fuels

Experts have called for proper standards for pump fuels as the government wavers over the composition of ethanol in petrol blending.

Forecourt pumps carried the ‘Blend’ moniker for years but it certainly wasn’t blend that was being pumped out of the tanks.
Forecourt pumps carried the ‘Blend’ moniker for years but it certainly wasn’t blend that was being pumped out of the tanks.

Motoring expert Richard Wiley told The Zimbabwean in an exclusive interview that Zimbabwean motorists had been kept in the dark for far too long about the composition of pump fuels.

“As an example, forecourt pumps carried the ‘Blend’ moniker for years but it certainly wasn’t blend that was being pumped out of the tanks. Aside from the percentage of ethanol mix, the octane rating of petrol should be displayed and the same applies to sulphur content of diesel,” he said.

The government recently backtracked on its decision to revise upwards its mandatory ethanol blending levels from E10 to E15 claiming that rains had affected the harvesting of sugar cane for ethanol production in Chisumbanje.

Wiley said an ethanol mix of 10 percent would have no “deleterious effect on most engines” but going beyond that, especially to 20 percent may generate festering problems such as corrosion and a reduction in the lubricity of engine oils.

“Further, and because ethanol has a lower energy value than pure petrol, it is quite probable that fuel consumption will be increased because wider throttle openings will be needed to overcome the lost power,” he said.

Wiley added that he had reason to believe that spark plug life may be reduced, which could be significant given that many modern cars, especially of European origin, are factory-fitted with long life plugs which may no longer have the life span envisaged or allowed for in service schedules.

“Older carburettor-fed engines may display hot starting problems with a 20 percent mix, but please be aware that it’s simply not possible to generalise on these issues,” he said.

Other experts have also warned that there was need to properly manage and monitor ethanol blending and have expressed doubts that this could be carried out due to the lack of infrastructure.

According to the South African Petroleum Industry Association the addition of ethanol needs to be properly controlled to prevent potential running problems such as difficult starting after hot shutdown, rough idle, surge and vapour log.

SAPIA argues that because ethanol is infinitely soluble in water this means that in the presence of water, ethanol will be extracted from the petrol phase into the water phase and a consequent complete phase separation resulting in serious “drivability” and other logistical problems.

Ethanol blending was introduced in Zimbabwe at five percent but there are plans to raise this to 20 percent by March 2014. In November, Media, Information and Broadcasting Services minister, Jonathan Moyo, said that the Government had potentially erred in effecting the fuel blending policy.

Moyo even suggested that such a policy could have been introduced due to the influence of certain powerful interests which were not necessarily political but could business taking advantage of connections with policymakers. Zimbabwe’s sole ethanol producer Green Fuels is owned by controversial business tycoon Billy Rautenbach.

Post published in: News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *