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Quality Fuel – Numerous Depots Have Been Tested – by Greg Salzwedel

All fuel that we uplift from the oil company refineries undergo extensive QC processes before being released – one of these tests is specifically the HFRR test referred to in the attached article to test for lubricity. The current SANS 342 specifications laid down for diesel fuel quality in RSA will conform to the internationally accepted benchmarks for both HFRR and a myriad of other criteria, some of which are outlined in the basic fuel test results reflected later in this email. The HFRR test is unfortunately very expensive and only the refineries/fuel producers have the sophisticated equipment required to test it, so it is not a common test that is done when checking fuel quality.

It is important to remember that both diesel fuel and kerosene (or Illuminating paraffin or JetA1) have very similar properties and in fact are produced sequentially during the refining distillation process. It is therefore totally feasible for the fuel producers/refiners to blend various grades of diesel and kerosene together produce a specific diesel grade i.e. 50ppm or 10ppm diesel – the caveat being that the ultimate diesel fuel must always conform the a numerous criteria as stipulated by the ruling SANS 342 specification.

It is possible to run diesel vehicles off pure kerosene/IP/Jet A1, the critical factor being that a lubricity agent needs to be added – kerosene is a much “drier” fuel than diesel so you will pick up damage to injectors and injector pumps if not addetised with a lubricity agent. Being shorter hydrocarbon chains, kersone’s is slightly more volatile than diesel, so the engine will also run slightly hotter and there will be a power loss (commonly quoted at about 7%) between kerosene and diesel. However,as kerosene is not taxed in RSA with the R5.70 per liter tax levied on diesel, this has led to the practice of “fuel spiking” in RSA, where un-addetised kerosene is substituted for diesel in order for financial gain. This practice, in my opinion, is a far greater threat to fuel quality in RSA than product uplifted at the oil company’s gantries. In order to prevent this practice, SARS has legislated that all kerosene needs to contain the Authentix tracer/marker. It is possible to test diesel for the Authentix tracer, and if found in diesel, it is an indicator that the fuel has been “spiked” with IP. Unfortunately, due to the significant financial gains to be made with “spiking” it appears that some unscrupulous suppliers have found a way of “masking” the usual test that is commonly done for Authentix tracer. However, due to the chemical property differences between kerosene and diesel w r t density, viscosity, flashpoint and boiling point (90% recovery temp), it is often possible to pick up “spiked” product when the tracer has been masked – as can be seen by the below sample results,tested by Wearcheck.

One can also test for Authentix tracer through SGS (approx. R3 800 per test) – this test is able to give one the exact percentage of kerosene spiking in the diesel – the above sample subsequently tested out at 23% spiking using SGS.

In a nutshell, while refiners may be using relatively more JetA1/kerosene/IP in their diesel blend, it will be exceptionally rare (if at all) that they would ever allow diesel not conforming to the SANS 342 spec to be released into the market. However, of very real risk in the current RSA market is the high prevalence of “spiking” and the resultant damage that this fuel is doing to vehicles. We have found levels of up to 72% kerosene in recent samples tested.
We mitigate this risk, by:

  • Only purchase product that is sourced directly from oil major gantries – ideally this product must be delivered directly to you from upliftment and must be accompanied by a bill-of-loading (BOL) from the gantry.
  • Guard against”cheap”diesel – if the price is too good to be true, it generally is. Good chance it comes with a good dose of kerosene/IP/jetA1.
  • If in doubt, check fuel using SGS test.

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