The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) had confirmed the importation and distribution of petrol with methanol quantity above Nigeria’s specification, this was discovered on February 8, 2022.
The regulator stated that the adulterated product had been isolated and withdrawn from the market, this includes the loaded trucks in transit.
The development led to long queues across Lagos and Abuja as quite a number of fueling stations shut down their services.
“Our technical team, in conjunction with NNPC Ltd and other industry stakeholders, will continue to monitor and ensure quality petroleum products are adequately supplied and distributed nationwide,” NMDPRA stated.
But this came a little too late as so many vehicles had already been affected by the methanol-laden petrol.
WHAT IS METHANOL?
Methanol is a normal additive in petrol, and it is often blended in a specific quantity. It is a clean-burning, high octane (hydrocarbon) blending component for gasoline which is made from alternative non-petroleum energy sources like natural gas, coal, and biomass.
Methanol was first used in gasoline blending in the 1970s when the automakers of the time and the oil refining industry started investigating the benefits of methanol gasoline blends in vehicles.
This was due to the crude oil price hike at the time.
Methanol blends at 15 volume percent (M15) were successfully used in several large vehicle fleets (per 1000 vehicles each) in multi-year road trials to probe the durability and performance of the fuel blend.
IMPORTANCE OF METHANOL IN PETROL
Methanol has so many fuel properties that make it cleaner burning in gasoline engines, according to the Methanol Institute. Aside from the fact that methanol contains oxygen for cleaner fuel combustion, it also has a high blending octane for smoother burning and lower boiling temperature for better fuel vaporization in cold engine operation.
These blending properties enable oil refiners or gasoline blenders to make cleaner-burning gasoline that lowers vehicle emissions which are precursors to ozone and particulate matter (PM) in the ground-level atmosphere.
“For the developing economies, the blending of methanol in gasoline is one of the quickest and lowest-cost means for both displacing costly petroleum energy consumed in the existing vehicle fleet on the road, and also reducing vehicle emissions that lead to air pollution such as ozone, carbon monoxide (CO), air toxic and PM,” methanol institute said.
IS METHANOL DANGEROUS FOR CARS?
High percentages of methanol in fuels are susceptible to lowering the energy density of the fuel to the level where hard starting and stalling (a situation where the car refuses to start or dies after starting) becomes an issue for some motorists.
According to Top Gear, an automobile website, the benefit of methanol in small amounts is not harmful but uncontrolled and unregulated mixing can lead to concentrations high enough to cause wear and damage over time to sensitive seals and hoses in the fuel system.
From the current crisis, methanol is not the issue, but uncontrolled or unregulated quantities may result in an issue for an automobile’s engine.
HOW DID OFF-SPEC PETROL GET INTO NIGERIA?
In the wake of the outcry over the issue, MRS had at first blamed the NNPC subsidiary for importing the methanol-blended petrol.
“Due to the current subsidy regime, NNPC is the sole importer of all PMS in Nigeria. Consequently, NNPC through their trading arm Duke Oil, supplied a cargo of PMS purchased from international trader Litasco and delivered it with the Motor Tanker (MT) Nord Gainer,” MRS revealed in a statement issued on 2nd of February, 2022.
But NNPC, which manages fuel imports through the government’s direct sale, direct purchase (DSDP) contract, stated that suppliers imported the product, noting that it came from Antwerp, Belgium.
According to the general managing director, NNPC, Mele Kyari, the suppliers include MRS, Oando, Emadeb Consortium, and Duke Oil, a subsidiary of NNPC.
“NNPC investigation revealed the presence of methanol in four PMS cargoes imported by DSDP suppliers including MRS, Oando, Duke Oil, and Emadeb/Hyde/AY Maikifi/Brittania-U Consortium,” Kyari said.
So far, Duke Oil, Oando, and Emadeb Consortium are yet to release an official statement stating their involvement in the matter.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OFF-SPEC AND ADULTERATED FUEL?
Adulteration lowers the quality or purity content of petrol by including foreign or inferior elements. Off-spec means the product did not meet the quality or standard requirements set by regulation.
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WHAT ARE THE ADVERSE EFFECTS SO FAR?
Although the NNPC had announced that it is taking correctional measures by withdrawing the adulterated PMS, the effect of the substandard PMS can be seen across the country.
Consumers are faced with fuel shortages which have led to long queues at various stations across the country.
In a trending video, a petrol attendant in Lagos complained about how the product supplied to the station ruined motorists’ cars and motorcycle engines.
There have also been several reports of vehicle damage, a situation admitted by Timipre Sylva, minister of state for petroleum resources.
“We know that some people’s vehicles must have also been damaged; that is also going to be taken into consideration in dealing with the situation,” he said.