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Fuel additives

August 10, 2018

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SIX months of wrangling have elapsed and now finally the government is ready to roll out a plan to phase out manganese additives from all vehicular fuels. This is a big moment, and ministry officials must ensure that it goes through, regardless of the fact that there is a political transition under way. If the next government wants to interfere in the plan, let it come out and say so openly. Manganese is a terrible additive for petrol that many oil-marketing companies and refiners were using to increase the RON count of their fuel and bring it in compliance with government regulations. The whole affair was exposed when one automaker sounded the alarm, saying the fuel additive was causing severe damage to some of the engines of its cars. That is when it first became known to the general public that the oil and gas regulator had not set any upper limit for manganese content in petrol, leaving the door open for oil companies to meet regulatory requirements on the cheap.

But now, the refineries have made the necessary modifications to produce higher RON petrol without requiring manganese additives. There is no longer any obstacle to enforcing the limits on manganese content by Nov 1, as the plan reportedly calls for. Manganese is a very harmful fuel additive that is regulated around the world because it ruins urban air quality, and is injurious to human health, particularly in the case of children. It is a neurotoxin and directly impairs brain development and function. In 2003, the American Association of Paediatrics recommended phasing out its use in fuels altogether because of its effects on the growth of children’s brains. It is astonishing that its use continued here for so long without anyone noticing. By now, there is no excuse whatsoever to not implement the caps, which should be further tightened in the months to come. Ultimately, it would be right to phase out this compound from our fuels altogether.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2018