TBS to blame for bad petrol imports
Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS), the quality standards watchdog, is to blame for unsuitable petrol imported through the bulk procurement system (BPS) and distributed in the local market between January and March, this year.
Sources within the oil industry told this paper that TBS only conducts 11 out of required 17 tests on imported oil and this created a loophole for importation of petrol blended with ethanol beyond the country’s specifications.
Laboratory tests by the Chief Government Chemist have proved that petrol supplied between January and March contained more ethanol than is required.
In an interview with the ‘Daily News’, the acting Director General of TBS, Mr Leandri Kinabo, said the standards body conducts only ‘critical parameters’ on imported oil at the port whereas other tests are conducted later.
He added: “Not all tests are conducted at the port. We are, however, in the process of purchasing an equipment called RON which checks overall performance of oil at once.” He explained further that before bulk procurement, oil came in different specifications for the local market and transit to neighbouring countries.
“This was due to the fact that while Tanzania allows some levels of ethanol in petrol; Rwanda doesn’t allow ethanol at all. However, standards bodies within the East African Community (EAC) have now agreed on standard specifications within the region,” Mr Kinabo said.
The Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (EWURA)’s Manager for Communication and Public Relations, Mr Titus Kaguo, confirmed over a fortnight ago that petrol supplied between January and March this year was out of specifications.
“It is true that we have received results from the Government Chemist, which reveal that the fuel consignment was out of specifications. The petrol had more quantum of ethanol beyond the specification requirements,” Mr Kaguo said then.
Allowable quantum of ethanol on petrol destined for the local market should not exceed 9.5 per cent and such fuel had to be blended at processing plant (at a refinery) and not elsewhere. Despite the findings of the Government Chemist, TBS had earlier maintained that the petrol matched specifications.
Mr Kaguo had told this paper then that the industry regulator was further studying the results including establishing why more ethanol has been found in the product before it submits a report to the EWURA Board for final directives.
The Petroleum Importation Coordinator (PIC) Board Chair, Mr Mansoor Shanif, said yesterday TBS had always provided it with clean quality certificate. “If there is any problem within the standards body then I am not in a position to comment,” Mr Mansoor, also the MP for Kwimba (CCM), told the ‘Daily News’ in a telephone interview.
Oil marketing companies had in April, this year, accused the supplier of petroleum products through BPS, Augusta Energy SA, over what they claimed to be poor quality petrol supplied between January and March.
Geneva-based Augusta Energy SA won three successive tenders to supply oil through BPS from January to June this year, with each tender covering two months.
Through a letter dated April 5, this year, addressed to EWURA, the oil companies, through their apex body, Tanzania Association of Oil Marketing Companies (TAOMAC), said they suspected the petrol to have been blended with ethanol.
At this juncture, EWURA submitted petrol samples from diverse sources to the government chemist for further testing. The oil companies had reported various inadequacies with the fuel, ranging from malfunctioning digital flow meters, failure of dispensing units as well as failures of motor vehicles.
The representative of Augusta Energy SA in Tanzania, Mr Orlando de Costa, said he had not been informed on the government chemist’s findings. “It should also have been noted that at first the companies were not complaining on petrol having more quantity of ethanol but rather on the presence of ethanol in petrol,” he said in a telephone interview.
Augusta Energy’s Managing Director, Giuseppe Nestola, said in a letter dated April 11, 2012, that the disputed fuel had legally acceptable levels of oxygen content of not more than 1.04 per cent which many oil marketing companies imported prior to commencement of bulk procurement.
By ALVAR MWAKYUSA, Tanzania Daily News
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