The Bulk Oil Distribution Companies (BDCs) who are the importers of the refined petroleum products from the international market have been very dishonest to consumers of their product (diesel).
A recent global report uncovered that, the Ghanaian market was inundated with toxic (substandard) fuel that is threatening lives and destroying cars.
According to the report, the fuel imported into Ghana, mainly diesel is highly toxic, sometimes 2000 times worse than the standards accepted in the EU and the USA.
The presence of Sulphur determines the level of fuel quality.
High levels of Sulphur presence in a measure of diesel indicate poor quality while a low level shows otherwise. High levels of Sulphur has been linked with several respiratory illnesses and car malfunctioning.
According to expert knowledge, although, the quality of the fuels imported into Ghana meets the country’s quality standards, the products pose a great risk to the health of consumers and easily damage the engines of vehicles.
The report which was released by a Swiss environmental non-governmental organisation, Public Eye, detected health-damaging substances, including polyaromatics (diesel) or benzene (gasoline), in concentrations that would never be allowed in fuels in Europe or the United States (US).
Reacting to the publication, the National Petroleum Authority says, despite concerns that diesel sold in Ghana is toxic, it meets environmental standards.
The most devastating to hear of his comments is when he voiced that, “if consumers feel the diesel distributed is inferior then they must be prepared to pay for more”, CEO of the Authority Moses Asaga said.
Moses Asaga revealed that Ghana has a 3000ppm level of Sulphur in diesel on the market.
In Europe, the level is 50ppm. Despite the wide gap in quality, Moses Asaga said Ghana’s level is permissible within the accepted scale, hence there is no cause for alarm.
He admitted that, just as V-Power is superior to petrol, the European standard is superior to Ghana’s standard. “If we want high quality fuel then we need to pay more… the thing is a price issue” Moses Asaga indicated.
Surprisingly, Supporting the NPA’s assertion, the Chief Executive Officer of Chamber of Bulk Oil Distributors, Senyo Hossi claims it is a matter of cost that fuel providers in Europe supply Ghana with fuel which has been described as toxic.
He alluded thyat, if Ghanaians don’t want to pay 10-ppm price for fuel, they should expect to be supplied with what they can afford.
In the European Union, the “Euro IV” standard has applied since 2005, which specifies a maximum of 50 ppm of sulfur in diesel fuel for most vehicles. Ultra-low-sulfur diesel with a maximum of 10 ppm of sulfur has been widely available as of 2008.
Although, this situation has been linked with several respiratory illnesses and car malfunctioning, however, Mr Hossi said, “Nobody has hidden the information from Ghana as to the existence of this quality. Everybody who runs this business and a major policy maker should have either the technical know-how about this or have people around them to tell them it is premium diesel.
“If you want the premium diesel, fix it in your standard and pay for it,” he told to Joy News’ Evans Mensah on Newsnite, Thursday. He said Ghanaian authorities in conjunction set the standard with the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) and not the European partners.
“This was because Ghana was looking at what TOR could produce economically and sustainably. BDC does not do that standard and we do much better than that,” he said.
Regarding serving their client’s well in terms of being corporately responsible, he said the BDC are doing much lower than the regulations are asking for.
“With corporate social responsibility the primary responsibility you have to the economy is economic responsibility. That is you as a business must be viable to sustain the service you are delivering to your the economy and customers,” Mr Hossi said.
“I cannot reduce to 500-ppm in a way that makes me make losses sustainably, I will run down the banks in this country…and it is not business before lives because we are actually doing fair and responsible business as at now,” he added.
The Executive Director of the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP), Dr Mohammed Amin Adam, who launched the report, said the call for transparency which had largely been scrutinising crude to ensure value for money for the country had been at the expense of quality of petroleum products.
“We must push for transparency not just at one side of the value chain but across the value chain. In the upstream sector, we are concerned about quality to determine prices, in the downstream sector, we must be concerned about quality to determine the impact on our health, the environment and our cars,” he said.
Findings of the study showed that, more than two-thirds of the diesel samples (17 out of 25) had a Sulphur level higher than 1,500 parts per million (ppm), which is 150 times the European limit of 10 ppm. Ghana’s Sulphur content standard is pegged at 3,000 ppm, but the research found Ghana’s diesels products imported by Trafigura and Vitol to contain between 2,410 and 2,730 ppm, which is lower than the acceptable Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) limits but much higher than the 10 ppm European standard.
“In a number of samples, we found traces of metals that also contribute to higher emissions of pollutants and damage car engines,” Mr Gian-Valentino Viredaz, a commodities researcher with the NGO, told journalists at a press conference in Accra fortnight.
Apparently, the Head of Public Affairs at the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), Kofi Bediako Amponsah, has suggested that a change in Ghana’s vehicle importation policy, will resolve the importation of toxic fuel into the country.
He noted that most of the vehicles imported are older than a decade; hence importing quality fuel would cause a reduction in their toxic emissions.
The head of Public Affairs explains that, the new policy could consider the importation of only new vehicles to guarantee emissions are not highly toxic.
According to the report titled: “Dirty Diesel,” differences between national fuel quality regulations offered the opportunity for companies to profit from a form of regulatory arbitrage.
While the practice of blending fuel for profit is an acceptable industry practice, it is within the law of the countries where the products are exported to, that it is the result of “regulatory arbitrage” that allows traders and fuel companies to dump cheap, dirty fuels at the expense of the health of the consuming public in Africa.
United Nations trade statistics show that the Amsterdam–Rotterdam–Antwerp oil route accounted for around 50 per cent of the declared volume of petroleum products delivered to West Africa in 2014.
The National Petroleum Authority data indicate that Ghana as of June this year, imported 1,881,350,944 metric tonnes of diesel worth more than US$1.1 billion.
It was revealed that, Swiss commodity traders, Trafigura and Vitol, are among a number of companies accused of exporting what environmentalists call “African quality” diesel, blending products in European facilities to create fuels with Sulphur levels that are sometimes hundreds of times over European limits.
“The goal for the companies is to be as close as possible to the legal limit in order to maximise the profits,” Mr Viredaz observed.
According to experts, when the fuel is burned, the Sulphur is released into the atmosphere as Sulphur dioxide and other compounds that are major contributors to respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and asthma.
The experts further alarmed that, the harm done by high-Sulphur fuels is hard to measure, particularly in parts of the continent where statistics is poor, but death from air pollution is real.
Also, a report published by the World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) last week found that air pollution is the third-biggest cause of death in poor and lower-middle income countries.
It estimated that it killed more than 17,500 people in Ghana alone in 2013, costing more than $542 million in lost labour income, an estimate that doesn’t even include the cost of treating pollution-related disease.
However, Mr Viredaz asserted that the situation could be turned around if policy makers decided to insist on high quality equivalent or close to what was on the European market.
He cited the example of five countries of the East African Community (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda) which insisted on a new low-sulphur content specification of 50 ppm for diesel since January 2015.
“This move, which dramatically lowered per million emissions, has absolutely no impact on prices,” he explained.
He also rallied Ghana and other African countries to take decisive steps, including employing stringent fuel standard, as well as regulate the export of blend-stock fuels.
Source: Adnan Adams Mohammed