Editor's Comment

Probe fuel contamination, arrest culprits

THE revelation by the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) that some transporters of petroleum products have been mixing diesel and petrol with kerosene before delivering the commodities calls for serious investigations.
It is unacceptable for anyone to contaminate diesel or petrol with paraffin because it is costly for unsuspecting owners of motor vehicles.
We challenge ERB to work with the government’s security wings to bring the perpetrators of this crime to book.
If ERB has any evidence of wrongdoing by the transporters of petroleum products it should not hesitate to report them to the police.
The ERB’s expose is just a tip of an iceberg.
There must be a lot dirt to clean up in the energy sector.
At a public hearing aimed at resolving the wrangling that has engulfed the transportation of petroleum products into Zambia, ERB board chairperson Geoff Mwape was categorical.
He said the institution is aware that unscrupulous transporters have been contaminating diesel and petrol by mixing it with kerosene.
“Maybe those who are contaminating fuel and causing confusion are coming from the pirates. We will not spare them, we will expose them and the police will move in,” Pastor Mwape was quoted by the media as saying.
But the Petroleum Transporters Association of Zambia (PTAZ) has quickly parried the allegation.
Its president, Roberto Sabbadin, accused foreign transporters of engaging in the vice.
But what makes Mr Sabbadin conclude that members of his organisation, the local transporters of petroleum products, are not involved in the scam?
Instead of jumping to the local haulers’ defence PTAZ should co-operate with ERB to investigate the matter.
What if it is discovered that some of the local transporters are also deeply involved?
Whatever the case, we feel that ERB should not just issue threats but use its mandate to protect users of fuel from the sharks.
Mixing petrol with paraffin, which is also known as ‘petrol stretching’, is costly not only to motor vehicle owners but the nation as a whole.
This is because the contamination can damage engines and force owners to spend a lot of money to either repair or replace them.
It is usually done to facilitate theft of fuel from the tankers.
According to Life Motor Talk, an online publication, it is estimated that the engines of hundreds of petrol cars are badly damaged by ‘petrol stretching’ each year.
The ERB says diesel and petrol are being mixed with the kerosene after it comes into the county.
Life Motor Talk says kerosene (paraffin) will damage an engine even more quickly than most laundered diesel, and vehicles with smaller petrol engines are most at risk.
“The damage is so severe in many cases that engine pistons have melted and ended up coated in carbon, leaving the driver facing massive repair bills,” the publication explains. The common indicators for petrol stretching that motorists should watch out for include a lack of power and misfiring of the engine,” it advises.
Engines consuming kerosene contaminated fuel may also experience a knocking noise and low compression with excessive crank case pressure.
It is in this light that we urge ERB, the Zambia Bureau of Standards and the Zambia Police Service to come up with measures aimed at putting a stop to the rot.
Random tests should be done on diesel and petrol samples from tankers and filling stations to detect any signs of contamination.
Motorists and owners who have observed the above behaviour in their motor vehicles should have the engines and the fuel examined with the help of the ERB.
We urge those involved in this scam to stop immediately because the law will surely catch up with them.

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