Tests by Pakistan’s OGRA reveal excessive use of chemicals in petrol

Tests conducted by Pakistan’s Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) and the Hydrocarbon Development Institute of Pakistan (HDIP) showed an excessive amount of chemicals in petrol, according to news report by ProPakistani. The tests were undertaken following a complaint filed in November 2017 by Honda Motor Co.’s Pakistan subsidiary, Honda Atlas Cars (Pakistan) Ltd.

Honda Atlas Cars (Pakistan) Ltd. reported engine knocking and sensor failure in the Honda Civic 1.5L Turbo.

OGRA and HDIP found the following chemicals from samples of RON 90 and 92 petrol:

  • Manganese: 63.31 parts per million (ppm) to 315.5 ppm
  • Iron: 6.2 to 35.1 ppm
  • Manganese in imported petrol: 1.62 ppm
  • Iron in imported petrol: 63.88 ppm

The use of methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl or MMT has been a highly contentious issue for more than 40 years. According to a research report by the Coordinating Research Council (CRC) prepared by the Desert Research Institute, “some vehicles are more susceptible to problems than others.” The report said that “there is credible evidence that all of the above-mentioned problems [primarily catalyst plugging and HC emissions increase, engine-out or tailpipe] can occur in Tier 2 vehicles—especially with long-term use that allows for greater manganese accumulation in the catalyst.”

ASTM D4814, Standard Specification for Automotive Spark-Ignition Engine Fuel, limits the amount of manganese additive in gasoline to 0.25 mg/L in markets where vehicles meeting U.S. Tier 2, Euro 5 or more stringent emissions standards are required or in widespread use. Before this ASTM action, the lowest numerical limit was 2 mg /L, which applies to the European Union and major cities in China. There are some countries, such as Russia, Germany, etc., which do not allow manganese additives in fuel.

However, the current gasoline specification in Pakistan is based on the Euro 2 standard. In November 2016, Pakistan phased out RON 87 petrol, and introduced three higher grades of octane: RON 92, 95 and 97. Local refineries were asked to produce RON 90 as well.

To boost the octane rating of petrol without having to make refinery modifications, local refineries resorted to blending gasoline with MMT and NMA.

The Honda complaint said tests found dangerous levels of manganese in fuel samples from Shell Pakistan Ltd, Total Parco Pakistan Ltd and Pakistan State Oil Company Ltd, according to a Reuters report last year.

The tests showed levels of manganese of up to 53 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg), while the additive is deemed harmful to engines at levels starting at 24 mg/kg, the Honda complaint said.

The Oil Companies Advisory Council (OCAC) rejected the allegations regarding the use of harmful additives by oil companies.

OCAC said that the petrol being sold in the country is strictly in accordance with the approved specifications issued by the Ministry of Energy, Petroleum Division (MOEPD), whether produced locally or imported.

“We concede, however, that the petrol specifications in Pakistan do not prescribe any limits on any additives, which they should. That is one of the areas being addressed by a Committee chaired by the Additional Secretary Petroleum Division, Ministry of Energy and comprising of Member Oil OGRA, CEO OCAC, DG Oil and DG HDIP.

“The Committee finds it necessary to impose limits on Manganese and Iron contents. It is with this objective in mind that OCAC itself sponsored and paid for detailed testing of the petrol produced by the local refineries as well as that imported by all OMCs. The results thus compiled have been shared with the Committee and deliberations are underway to define (and include in the Petrol specifications) limits on Manganese and Iron content.

“Any speculation as to the recommendations of the Committee will be pure speculation until a decision has been taken.”

OCAC members include the country’s five refineries (Pak-Arab Refinery Limited, National Refinery Limited, Pakistan Refinery Limited, Attock Refinery Limited and Byco Oil Pakistan Limited), 16 oil marketing companies (Pakistan State Oil Co. Limited, Shell Pakistan Limited, Total Parco Marketing Limited, Attock Petroleum Limited, Total Parco Pakistan Limited, Admore Gas (Pvt.) Limited, Hascol Petroleum Limited, Byco Oil Pakistan Limited, Bakri Energy (Pvt.) Limited, Zoom Petroleum Limited, Gas & Oil Pakistan Pvt. Limited, Oilco Trading Company (Pvt.) Limited, Askar Oil Services (Pvt.) Limited, Horizon Oil Company Pvt Limited, Outreach (Pvt) Limited, Quality 1 Petroleum (Pvt) Limited) and one pipeline transportation company (Pak-Arab Pipeline Co. Limited).