Withdrawal of petrol with methanol cause of scarcity

From Uche Usim, (Abuja) and Adewale Sanyaolu

As long queues surfaced across Lagos and Abuja yesterday over sudden fuel scarcity, the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) has blamed the situation on the withdrawal of petrol discovered to have contained methanol above Nigeria’s specification.

According  to a statement by the agency yesterday, the affected petrol was isolated and withdrawn from the market, including the loaded trucks in transit.

Methanol is a regular additive in petrol and usually blended in an acceptable quantity.

NMDPRA explained that the source supplier has been identified and appropriate actions would be taken.

The agency said its technical team, in conjunction with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Ltd and other industry stakeholders, would “monitor and ensure that quality petroleum products are adequately supplied and distributed nationwide.”

It revealed that the NNPC Ltd and all oil marketing companies had been directed to sustain sufficient distribution of petrol in all retail outlets nationwide.

The NMDPRA said NNPC had intensified efforts at increasing the supply of petrol into the market “in order to bridge any unforeseen supply gap.”

Meanwhile, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, (IPMAN) has warned motorists against panic buying, saying petroleum products will be available from today.

Its Vice President, Abubakar Maigandi, stated this yesterday as a guest on Arise TV news programme, Newsday.  He said: “The government and the NNPC is (sic) on it. “There is no way we can sell those contaminated because it will affect motorists. But…car owners should stop panic-buying. By God’s grace, today or tomorrow, the product will be available nationwide.”

He gave assurance that Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) wasworking seriously to see that they get the correct product so that the marketers wouldcontinue loading.

“Already, we told all our marketers to stand by the various depots that they are loading. Immediately when we start receiving the uncontaminated products, the products will be available in most of our filling stations nationwide,” he said.

Maigandi did not mention who was to be held responsible for the contaminated petroleum products in circulation. He, however, said “IPMAN buys its product through NNPC and private depots. In every business sometimes, “there must an issue and this has been already understanding (sic) without many damages,” he said.

Also IPMAN National Operations Controller, Mr. Mike Osatuyi,  disclosed that the contaminated product is being mopped-up, a development that has caused disruption in the distribution chain.

‘‘The impact is quickly felt in Lagos because of its huge demand and consumption of petrol. Any disruption in the distribution chain is almost an immediate reaction unlike what obtains in other parts of the country.

“The NNPC is doing its best at this critical time and we believe the effort will yield a positive action soon. I implore Nigerians to be patient and not engage in any form of panic buying,’’ he said.

Other marketers who spoke to Daily Sun in confidence for fear of being sanctioned by the regulator confirmed that there was indeed off-spec petrol in circulation.

The off-spec or contaminated petrol according to the marketers is petrol laden with graded water and already in the tanks of some major oil marketers which included; Ardova, MRS and Total with independent marketers such as NIPCO also involved.

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They explained that since NNPC is the sole importer of petrol, they should be held liable and made to explain to Nigerians what happened.

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However, a reliable source in one of the agencies told Daily Sun that the contaminated petrol came in with some quantity of methanol and ethanol and that when tested, the result came out as being fit for use but when exposed to oxygen, it starts to react. The source added that the exposure to oxygen builds up sludge in the petrol, thus causing damage to car engines.

‘‘I can confirm to you that we have received reports that this contaminated fuel has caused damage to vehicle engines. That is not in doubt.

She explained that both NNPC and the Nigerian Midstream Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) are both aware of this development and are taken steps to ensure that the situation is arrested.

The marketer further told Daily Sun that the volume of the contaminated fuel which made is way into the country is about 200 million litres.

He said the NNPC has given assurance that it would evacuate the contaminated fuel in the tanks of the affected depots while ensuring that they do not suffer any financial loss, they would be reimbursed for the bad product.

‘‘For now, we are not loading out trucks until this issue is addressed in the interest of the consumers. This may take up till next week before it gets resolved. The result of fuel shortage is what has now translated to queues in some filling stations. But the truth is that, not all depots/fuel marketers are affected.

Meanwhile, Some petroleum marketers say fuel scarcity will persist in Lagos and other parts of the country until depots are restocked with adequate and quality products.

The marketers who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the condition of anonymity equally blamed the current scarcity on the supply of a wrong specification of petrol in some parts of the country.

They noted that the directive to withdraw the product from the market even after distribution to many filling stations across Lagos and other areas created a supply shortfall, thereby, leading to panic buying.

“As we speak, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd is working to ensure that this disruption to the supply chain is addressed as soon as possible.

“However, there is the challenge of logistics and how to compensate those who were supplied with the adulterated products.

“The NNPC is working with marketers on this and once the depots are restocked, tankers will start loading and supply will improve across the country.

“Until we are able to achieve this, queues will remain at the petrol stations because of the panic already created,’’ one of the top marketers told NAN.

An independent petroleum marketer (name withheld) said there had been complaints from some motorists on the fuel quality which made his station to stop selling for now.

“Some independent marketers are not hoarding products as is being alleged. Some of us were affected by the supply we got and we are trying to resolve the situation so that we can continue our business,’’ he said.

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