Petrochemical expert claims bad fuel destroys engines

January 01, 2012 | 08:00
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Vietnamese authorities are speeding up tests on petroleum samples after controversy surrounding recent incidents of vehicle fires.

Vehicle fires stirs up concern over fuel quality 

Fuel tests

Tran Minh Dung, Chief Inspectorate of the Ministry of Science and Technology, said the test results will be announced before Tet holiday.

According to Dung, the investigative agency will expand the testing areas for petroleum and gas products in 2012.

After a Daewoo Lacetti caught fire in Yen Dung District, Bac Giang Province, the district police plan to test gasoline at the petrol station where the car owner bought fuel before the fire.

Nguyen Thi Nhan, wife of the car's owner, said, “At 11am on December 26, my husband bought petrol at a station only one kilometre far from our house. We often buy gasoline there.”

Senior Lieutenant-Colonel, Nguyen Van Son, head of Yen Dung District police, told DTiNews that the local investigative agency has asked that the Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Criminal Science participate in the investigation into the cause of the fire.

The district police suspect that the cause is substandard, or improperly mixed fuel combined with mechanical problems.

Police in Thanh Hoa City are also cooperating with local authorities to carry out an investigation of another incident where a Mazda caught fire on December 27. Tran Ba Cuong, the vehicle owner, said that he found it difficult to start the engine before the fire.

Dangers of Improperly blended fuel

Dr. Dao Quoc Tuy, Head of the Hanoi University of Technology’s Department of Organic Synthesis and Petrochemical Technology, said, “If gasoline is blended with additives, such as acetone, methanol or methanol in certain proportions it would reduce pollutants from exhaust. However, if the proportions are not right, it may cause damage to an engine.”

Tuy said that the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Directorate for Standards, Metrology and Quality have issued standards for blending gasoline, which stipulate that only a maximum of 5% ethanol can be added to create bio-ethanol or E5. This ethanol must also be 99.5% alcohol.

According to Tuy, a fire may can occur even when a vehicle's engine is turned off because some of the electrical components remain active. A short circuit could result in a fire.

"In 2006, there was a spate of motorbike malfunctions in Ho Chi Minh City that was apparently a result of of around 10,000 tonnes of improperly blended gasoline hitting the retail market. However, in that case, no fuel-related fires were recorded. In order be certain of the cause of recent vehicle fires, samples of gasoline should be taken and analyzed.."

He noted that if fuel is the the cause for these fires, there would have had to been a large amount of bad fuel sold.

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