Thursday, 27 November 2014

The NPA & GSA Must Prevent Substandard Fuel From Being Imported Into Ghana

It is vital that the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) takes immediate steps, to ensure that the so-called Bulk Oil Distribution Companies (BODC) that import refined petroleum products, including diesel and petrol, do not unwittingly import substandard diesel and petrol into Ghana under any circumstances.

Although the BODCs will deny the allegation that they are actually importing substandard fuel into Ghana, the NPA and the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), must undertake rigorous tests on each consignment of fuel shipped into Ghana.

 Imported substandard fuel, when used regularly in vehicles, will eventually damage their engines. Life is unbearable enough financially as it is, for most vehicle owners in Ghana, without their having to deal with the effects of substandard fuel on vehicle engines, which cost the earth to replace.

 Ghana owns an oil refinery. It is unpardonable and intolerable that a few powerful individuals have succeeded in sidelining the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR), and  today, we have arrived at a point where private-sector entities are apparently regularly importing substandard fuel into Ghana.

If that is indeed the case, then those greedy and callous businesspeople must be stopped from colluding with companies with a history such as that of Trafigura's, to rip-off Ghanaians, by importing substandard 'fuel' into Ghana. Enough is enough.

All fuel imported into Ghana must conform to the same standards existing in Europe and the US - to protect the motoring public and to ensure good air quality across Ghana.

 There are rumours that the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), which hobnobs with Trafigura,  is importing 'fuel' into Ghana. Is the GNPC being tricked  like Vest Tank was, one wonders?

 It would be tragic if it turned out that the GNPC is importing dangerous coker gasoline residue into Ghana, and storing them in tanks belonging to the Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Company (BOST).

 The government of Ghana needs to open its eyes widely in this matter. The tragedy that befell the people of Slovag and Abidjan must not be allowed to occur in the area where BOST is storing 'fuel' for the GNPC.

To protect Ghanaian motorists from the dangers of imported substandard fuel, TOR must be provided with crude oil by the GNPC to process into fuel and lubricants, etc., for sale to motorists in Ghana.

To make officials of the NPA and GSA aware of the chicanery they could be up against in this matter, and for the benefit of readers of this blog, I have culled two online articles,  for their perusal.

Today's  first culled article is from the online version of BBC News. It shows how from time to time even the UK falls prey to the activities of  criminal syndicates that sell substandard fuel.

The second culled article is from the website of NRK, the Norwegian state broadcaster. It outlines the production process once employed by major fuel trader, Trafigura, to produce substandard fuel.

The 'fuel' Trafigura produced, was apparently so bad that it could not  actually be legally sold in either the US or Europe - yet was shipped to West Africa. Incredibly, it deteriorated when exposed to sunlight.

Trafigura's  substandard 'fuel' production, and its shipment to West Africa for sale, was exposed by investigations carried out by journalists from the BBC, the Guardian newspaper and the Norwegian state broadcaster, NRK.

The BBC story is culled from their online  edition of


Please read on:

Illegal fuel: 48% rise in 'pop-up garages'

A man filling up his car with petrol Illegally-sold fuel is often substandard and can damage vehicle engines

Related Stories

There has been a 48% increase in the detection of illegal fuel sales from so called "pop-up garages" in the UK, HM Revenue and Customs figures show.
The operators sell fuel which has been smuggled or is substandard after being mixed with cheaper chemicals.
They do not pay tax and cost the Exchequer hundreds of millions of pounds a year in what petrol retailers are saying is a "crimewave".
HMRC says its detection is improving and the illegal trade is reducing.
Figures from HMRC show that in the 2012-13 period it made 6,506 visits to sites in the UK.

“Start Quote

We believe that the sales of illicit fuel are on the increase broadly linked to the increase in fuel prices and slump in the economy over the last four to five years”
Edmund King AA president

It detected illicit fuel, mostly diesel, being sold on 388 occasions, compared with 262 detections in 2009-10.

Pat Curtis, of HMRC's specialist investigations unit, believes criminal gangs are feeding off the recession.
"Criminal gangs will take advantage of any tax differential to make money on it," he says.

"They'll take advantage of customers out there who may be feeling the pinch and may be feeling they're getting value for money."

Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers' Association (PRA), describes the pop-up garages as a "crimewave" engulfing the market.

"A stagnant economy gives rise to unemployment, especially for younger people, and lowers real wages," he says.

"The inevitable result is that criminal activity becomes an alternative despite the risks."
Tax losses
The fuel being sold is often substandard and can seriously damage car engines. The chemicals used by the gangs and the waste they produce also damage the environment.

No-one knows exactly how much excise fraud costs the government.

The most recent estimates by HMRC are from 2010-11, which calculate that the loss to the Exchequer could be anything between £150m to £700m.

HMRC insist that the trend is downwards, reflecting the success of its strategy to prevent fuel fraud.

But Edmund King, president of the AA, says anecdotal evidence suggests the opposite.

"We believe that the sales of illicit fuel are on the increase broadly linked to the increase in fuel prices and slump in the economy over the last four to five years," he says.

"Geographically it has spread from Northern Ireland, to the north of England and now down to the south east."

That view appears to be backed up by HMRC's own figures.
Testing improvements
In 2009-10, officers detected illegal fuel sales on 150 occasions in Northern Ireland and 112 in the rest of the UK.

“Start Quote

The loss of this revenue affects how government works”
Pat Curtis HM Revenue and Customs

Last year, there were 128 in Northern Ireland and 260 in the rest of the UK.
Brian Madderson, from the PRA, applauds the work HMRC has done in Northern Ireland, but argues it has to change focus.

"It is now time for them to focus their efforts on Great Britain," he says.
"Independent services stations continue to close at the rate of 175 to 200 each year, mostly in challenged rural areas, with loss of jobs and local facilities."

But Mr Curtis suggests the reported rise in sales in England, Scotland and Wales may be down to better testing.

"We were under no illusions that it was happening everywhere," he says.
'Affects everybody'
So just how easy is it to buy illegal fuel?

Our contacts led us to a warehouse on a trading estate in east London.
We asked if they sold "cheap diesel" and were offered fuel for £1.15 per litre - approximately 25p less than at the pumps.

The operator pumped 40 litres into the tank, we paid in cash and were given no receipt.
HMRC says all these are indicators of illicit fuel sales.

When we had the fuel siphoned from the car and tested, it was contaminated and substandard.

Mr Curtis says the criminals who sell, and the motorists who buy, are depriving the government of much-needed funds.

"The loss of this revenue affects how government works," he says.
"It affects everybody in their pocket."

End of culled BBC News story.

Min båt er lastet med...

Vest Tank sweetened coker gasoline

In the Brennpunkt programme “Dirty Cargo”, we expose the operations of Vest Tank in Sløvåg prior to the explosion which spread toxic gases to the Gulen inhabitants.

On May 24 2007, a tank belonging to the enterprise Vest Tank in Sløvåg municipality exploded. The explosion generated an intense sulphurous stench, which has caused illness among the local population ever since.

Brennpunkt started investigating this case immediately after the explosion. We wished to find out what kind of operations led to the accident.

Tonight’s programme will provide you with an insight into the kind of shady business the west coast village found itself involved in.

Through agreements with major foreign operators, the enterprise Vest Tank’s tank facility in Sløvåg became an important link in an international production of, and trade with, extremely low quality gasoline.

The final product was of such poor quality that it was illegal to sell in Europe. Instead, this bad gasoline was shipped to West Africa.

Norwegian authorities proved to be completely unaware of these activities. In the programme, we illustrate how the controlling institutions which could have disclosed and put an end to these operations, actually do not function at all.

The agreement
In 2006, Vest Tank entered into an intention agreement with one of the world’s largest commodity traders, Trafigura.

Vest Tank was requested to desulphurize so-called coker gasoline;
a residue product from oil refining.

Trond Emblem - Mr. Trond Emblem
Mr. Trond Emblem
The owner of Vest Tank, Mr. Trond Emblem, claims that no contract was signed.
However, during the autumn of 2006, ships started docking in Sløvåg.
Emblem states that this was no pilot project, but simply a part of the ordinary Vest Tank activities.

The sweetening

Trafigura traded with sulphurous coker gasoline with a low octane level, originating in Mexico. The purpose of the trade was to cleanse this waste product in order to render it saleable as automobile fuel.

In the course of 2006 and 2007, Trafigura dispatched a total of 150.000 tons of coker gasoline, divided into 6 shipments.

Vest Tank pumped coker gasoline into its tanks, where they added caustic soda and water to wash away the sulphur, before the cargo was once more loaded into the ship.

At Vest Tank, large quantities of sulphur encapsuled in caustic soda were left behind.

In addition, coker gasoline residues which were not sufficiently sweetened, remained with the company.

Permission not granted

The enterprise Vest Tank was obliged to apply to the Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning (DSB) for license to store these substances in their tanks. But at least for one of the tanks, they had no such license.

Seksjonssjef Bjørn Bjørnstad i SFT - Mr. Bjørn Bjørnstad, Norwegian Pollution Control Authority
Mr. Bjørn Bjørnstad, Norwegian Pollution Control Authority
The Norwegian Pollution Control Authority (SFT) claim they have never authorized these operations. Vest Tank disputes this; they refer to the fact that they informed SFT about the project. In their opinion, SFT granted them permission by e-mail and over the telephone to carry out their activities.

The mixture

After the sweetening in Sløvåg, five of the six ships headed for the seaport town of Paldiski in Estonia.

In Paldiski, they discharged their cargoes at the terminal of the oil company Alexela, a company partly owned by Trafigura. Incidentally, Alexela bought up Vest Tank in Sløvåg after the explosion.

In Paldiski, the cargo was unloaded, and the Estonian customs service relate that a substance designed to increase the octane level is mixed into the gasoline.

The unusable residue product coker gasoline had now turned into low quality gasoline.

The Estonian customs state that the quality is so low, it renders it illegal to sell in Europe.

The gasoline is reloaded on board a ship, then dispatched to West Africa.

In Europe, the maximum approved sulphur level in gasoline is 50 ppm. In West Africa, 5000 ppm is the approved limit.

The waste

These were the main activities Vest Tank had established in Sløvåg. Consequently, the sweetening of coker gasoline generated a steady flow of hazardous waste, and in addition, the tank facility accepted waste for processing.

In the documentary “Dirty Cargo”, we bring you the story of all in all eight ships arriving in Sløvåg during the year before the facility exploded.

Two of the ships docking in Sløvåg did not sweeten gasoline. The first of these was Probo Emu. She carried the same kind of waste that her sister ship Probo Koala delivered in the Ivory Coast.

Eight ships arrived in Sløvåg

Probo Emu carries this waste in her slop tanks. Slop is wastewater with oil residue left over
after the cleaning of the oil tanks of a large ship. This waste is normally easily handled.

In Vest Tank‘s opinion, they acted in good faith when they accepted this waste. They were assured by Trafigura that this was slop; wastewater from the operation of the ship. It appears that instead this was waste from the sweetening of coker gasoline on board the ship.


The other ship was Ottavia, which loaded cargo in Sløvåg. When she arrived, she was nearly fully loaded with high quality gasoline purchased by Trafigura in England.

In Sløvåg, she collected 5400 tons of waste residue from the process of desulphurization of coker gasoline.
We have seen documents proving that this waste was mixed with the high quality gasoline on board. Subsequently, Ottavia sailed for West Africa.

Beyond control

Throughout a period of nearly a year, these companies carried out their activities right in the face of Norwegian authorities. Neither the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority, the Coastal Administration, the Customs Service, nor the Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning (DSB) inspected the operations.

On May 24, Tank 3 exploded. The reason was a Vest Tank blunder. They intended to get rid of caustic material and sulphur left at the bottom of the tank.

By pumping in hydrochloric acid, the waste was supposed to be transformed into salt and water. Instead, a carbon filter was ignited, and the tank blew up.

The sulphur contained in all the ship cargoes was released,
causing continuous illness among the local inhabitants.

End of culled NRK story.
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