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Dangers of using adulterated fuel

How many times have you heard of a friend or other motorists complaining of filling tanks with dirty fuel resulting in an expensive visit to a garage?

We hear such lamentations almost daily and the truth lies in the quality of the fuels we put in our vehicles.

Fuels that are contaminated or whose quality has been weakened by adding inferior quality ones are referred to as adulterated fuels.

Adulteration of fuels mainly involves adding kerosene or diesel to petrol. World statistics on adulteration indicate that 70 per cent of drivers and mechanics have experienced this problem in petrol engines and rarely on diesel and compressed natural gas (CNG) engines.

There has been hardly any data in developing nations but the rising consciousness in tailpipe emission levels has prompted some action towards curbing adulteration.

This flourishing business has resulted in big losses in revenue, deterioration of engine parts and increased emission levels that are harmful to our environment.

Compromised safety

The problem is aggravated in modern engines because of the refined systems tailored for better atomisation of fuels.

Engine malfunctions, failure of components and compromised safety are on record as results of using adulterated fuel.

Increased emissions, of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter intoxicate the air from such fuels. Experts say health problems could result from harmful tailpipe emissions and cancer causing pollutants, though not all forms of adulteration are harmful.

For instance, small amounts of kerosene added to diesel record insignificant changes in tailpipe emissions.

Kerosene mixed with petrol on the other hand, results in higher emissions because they do not form a uniform mixture, leading to incomplete combustion and even more particulate products.

Results based on many studies prove increased engine wear, loss of power and crankcase dilution — unburned gasoline accumulating in the crank case, then diluting engine oil.

The high levels of sulphur in kerosene compromises the conversion properties of engine pollutants on the catalysts, leading to engine deposit formation and engine knock. Poor handling of the fuel at adulteration points also leads to pollution and further dereliction of the soil.

Adulteration of fuels is a global problem and many countries are putting in measures to curb it.

For a long time, the blame has gone to small and medium size petroleum resellers but investigation from several energy authorities reveals that fuel adulteration is also being carried out by branded resellers run by unscrupulous individuals.

Fuel markers

This leaves many motorists in a precarious situation because they have a lot of  trust in branded petrol stations.

Many countries have adopted custom security seals from their respective governments and revenue authorities plus cracking down on cartels that supply such fuels.

Others introduce bio-chemical fuel markers in the petrol at loading points before delivery to retail outlets.

Individual motorists should be keen on the smells and colours of fuels and demand receipts at retail outlets.

By doing this, you can carry evidence on where you added impure petrol into your vehicle when your engine develops fuel related problems.