Those with diesel vehicles have more than just high fuel prices to worry about this week, after reports that tainted diesel fuel had been found at numerous outlets across the country.
THOSE with diesel vehicles have more than just high fuel prices to worry about this week, after reports that tainted diesel fuel had been found at numerous outlets across the country.
The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) said it had found contaminated diesel at 70 fuel stations around South Africa between April and December 2023, as reported by News24.
The department said it had issued non-compliance notices to all 70 outlets where diesel samples were allegedly found to have been contaminated with illuminating paraffin, which is illegal.
“The DMRE can confirm that through its annual random sampling and testing of fuel, at least 70 cases of diesel adulteration were found across all the provinces. Samples were collected from 1,000 service stations across the country,” the department said in a statement.
This practice, it said, is usually a form of tax evasion, as illuminating paraffin is not subject to the General Fuel Levy or Road Accident Fund Levy. Diesel that is tainted this way has lower lubricating properties and, as a result, can lead to faster wear and tear within your engine.
Sticking to “tried and trusted” fuel outlets is indeed a good way to avoid having contaminated diesel in your tank, said the DMRE’s deputy director-general, Tseliso Maqubela.
“You don’t find the non-compliance samples from your major dealers that are linked to major oil companies,” Maqubela told BusinessTech. “It is the ones that are run by non-refining wholesalers … unfamiliar brands.”
Automobile Association spokesperson Layton Beard said that answers were still needed, given that there are 6,500 fuel stations in South Africa. However, from a consumer perspective, it is very worrying.
“Buy from trusted retailers, ones you’ve never had problems with in the past,” Beard said.
He added that although there’s no reason to avoid independent retailers who you’ve dealt with in the past and come to trust over time, the bigger companies and retailers with established brand names are still the safest bet. This is because they have much on the line, and tainting diesel would not be worth the risk to them.
The province with the highest number of stations caught with contaminated diesel was Limpopo, with 15 cases. KwaZulu-Natal and North West both had 13 cases, followed by Mpumalanga (nine), the Northern Cape (six), Gauteng (five), the Western Cape and Free State (both four), and the Eastern Cape (one).
Mpho Dipela, director of Royal Energy, said consumers should avoid buying diesel at a price that is clearly abnormal in relation to the competition.
Dipela pointed out that between 2020 and 2023, annual sales of illuminating paraffin in South Africa doubled to around 1.2 million kilolitres.
“This raises serious concerns about where all that extra paraffin is being used, pointing to increased levels of oil adulteration. The scale of the problem has now reached a critical level and needs to be addressed immediately,” Dipela said in an opinion piece published by Oil Review Africa in 2023.