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Automakers push govt to standardise manganese content in petrol in Pakistan

Updated April 12, 2018


High manganese content in fuel hurts vehicle performance by choking catalytic converter and clogging parts, claim Japanese and local automakers.
High manganese content in fuel hurts vehicle performance by choking catalytic converter and clogging parts, claim Japanese and local automakers.

ISLAMABAD: The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) has asked the government to move quickly on setting specifications and standards for petroleum products in the market as more automotive manufacturers from Japan and Pakistan raised concerns about domestic fuel’s quality.

An Ogra official confirmed that the Petroleum Division of the energy ministry had been requested to expeditiously notify updated petroleum standards and specifications. He said Pakistan Automotive Manufacturers Association (Pama) and Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (Jama) had expressed that high manganese content in petrol being sold in Pakistan is causing health hazard and engine problems.

In August last year, Honda Atlas Cars Pakistan in a complaint to Ogra reported high manganese content in recently upgraded 92RON (Research Octane Number), causing three major issues: catalyst blocking or choking of the catalytic converter, engine knock due to low octane quality fuels and adverse human health effects of manganese.

In November, the government constituted a committee led by additional secretary of the Petroleum Division and comprising Ogra and oil industry to set specifications for manganese that were missing from the previous petroleum product standards. The committee held a few meetings but has not been able to notify or conclude fresh standards.

The regulator is also reported to have told the Petroleum Division that Pama had also complained that high manganese content in fuel emanated from a chemical to boost octane number. The Pama said there were hazardous technological and environmental repercussions of the metal content in fuel, if used beyond certain safe limits.

From a technical standpoint, manganese compromises engine performance in the long run, chokes catalytic convertor of the vehicle and aggravates pollution level by not converting unsafe substances of the exhaust.

It was reported that a delegation of Jama visited Pakistan last month and conveyed that Japan had some very serious concerns that “gasoline being used in Pakistan invariably contained manganese whose average is 52.6 ppm (parts per million); the highest figure being 86ppm.” The Jama said the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) standards required that use of any metal, whatsoever, is not permitted.

Accordingly, there is zero metal in gasoline worldwide, except a few countries where metal is used but the quantities insignificant. Even in regional countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Oman and Vietnam, only Kuwait and Vietnam gasoline contained less than 10 ppm compared to as high as 86 ppm in Pakistan.

The Japanese proposed to begin with allowing a maximum of 18ppm to facilitate oil industry bring down the existing level, followed by phasing out the metal completely. They said the vehicle parts were being devastated by high manganese content in gasoline which clogs the parts, resulting in partial combustion. The metal deposit and clogging asphyxiates the vehicle and emission from the tailpipe was sheer toxic and ‘undeniably a serious health hazard causing a number of bronchial, neurological and systemic diseases.”

The Honda Pakistan had claimed in its initial complaint that it had to suspend its latest variant of 0.5L Turbo VTEC car due to the substandard fuel quality. The Oil Companies Advisory Council (OCAC) had at the time threatened Honda Pakistan to withdraw its complaint about the alleged sale of low-quality fuel in the market or face legal action but did not move beyond.

The OCAC said the most likely cause of any observed catalyst blocking was a faulty engine management system or high sulphur fuels (which is damaging to catalytic convertors). The sulphur poisons catalyst surfaces, reducing the efficiency of the catalyst and sulphur compounds (sulphates) can block catalyst substrates.

The oil industry said Pakistan was currently at the beginning of its clean fuel journey and sulphur levels remained higher than those required for Euro-IV vehicles. The quality of the fuel in regard to preventing engine knock is measured by the octane value or RON of the fuel.

The OCAC said octane can be improved by a number of means, including the use of high-octane blending components, increased refinery severity, oxygenates, or additives.

Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2018