Deep dive into adulterated diesel

Recently, several news reports warned drivers that at least 70 service stations are selling ‘contaminated’ or ‘fake’ diesel. Many of these reports are causing significant concern amongst motorists as few, if any, are accompanied by advice about what to do to avoid filling up with adulterated diesel.

The CEO of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, says adulterated diesel has cost and safety implications for both private and commercial motorists. “After filling vehicles with compromised diesel, motorists can drive away seemingly unaffected. At a later stage, though, you will likely find yourself stuck on the roadside with a seized engine. This exposes you to the risk of oncoming traffic collisions and criminals.

“Drivers will also be left seriously out of pocket when it comes to repairs. For fleets that fill up with adulterated fuel, costs can soar if several vehicles are affected at once. Warranties will be void, leaving operators responsible for the repair or replacement.”

The question seldom answered is how motorists or fleet operators can protect their vehicles from adulterated fuel? To obtain a better understanding of the issue, MasterDrive spoke to Lebo Ramolahloane, the Vice Chairman of the South African Petroleum Retailers Association (SAPRA) and a second-generation Petroleum Retailer and Oil and Gas Tech Specialist.

Ramolahloane says the issue is much more complex than a few petrol stations trying to make a quick buck. “In fact, the discourse around this issue needs to be changed to enable a better understanding and therefore awareness of steps to take to protect oneself.

“In many instances, truck drivers are often involved. Drivers that are allowed to choose where to fill up vehicles, leave themselves vulnerable to refuelling with adulterated fuel. Filling stations and drivers come to an agreement where the drivers receive a rebate for fuelling up at their establishments.”

Part of the solution is to take back control over where vehicles are fuelled. “Establish relationships with reputable fuel stations that you can trust. Following that, implement requirements that drivers can only use these fuel stations. Once you remove the opportunity for drivers to profit from adulterated fuel, you significantly reduce your risk.

“The difficulty is determining which fuel stations are risky. There are three segments in the fuel industry. The first is franchised stations from well-known brands. While not impossible, it is highly unlikely these sell adulterated diesel.”

The second segment is independent stations which are further segmented into two groups. “These are independent branded stations not part of a franchise and large wholesalers. Again, it is unlikely these sell adulterated fuel. The third segment is filling stations or truck stops without a brand or network behind them and diesel wholesalers who illegally sell diesel to the general public at fuel depots. This is where you are most likely to come across adulterated diesel.

“While this can provide some guidance, it is also not a hard and fast rule. The actions of a few stations should not taint the reputation of all stations in the third segment. Likewise, it is the only if there is real-time monitoring and a particular consignment stock model of the first segment which provides reassurance. It is a complex issue where there is no guarantee,” says Ramolahloane.

The issue of adulterated fuel is complex requiring extensive planning to protect your vehicles. “MasterDrive and Lebo are delving into this issue more extensively over the coming weeks in our Drive Chat series to help both private motorists and fleet operators better understand the sale of adulterated fuel and how to avoid purchasing it,” says Herbert.