Thursday, September 15, 2016 9:27 pm
“Dirty Diesel”, a report published by Swiss NGO Public Eye on Thursday revealed how foreign companies are blending and dumping dirty fuel in West Africa with sulfur levels far higher than those allowed in Europe, with the resultant health and environmental hazards.
The companies, mostly Swiss based, according to the reports, take advantage of weak African standards to use cheap and dirty additives to create what’s called “African Quality” fuels.
Companies indicted in the practice include Oryx, Trafigura and Vitol with Nigeria, Senegal and Ghana as major importers of the ‘dirty’ fuel.
“Based on three years of research, the “Dirty Diesel” study highlights for the first time the pivotal role played by Swiss commodity trading companies in Africa’s fuel industry and reveals the scandalous business model behind a supply chain completely controlled by these companies in their multiple roles as producers, suppliers, and — in some regions —operators of gas station networks.
“In West Africa especially, Vitol, Trafigura and Addax & Oryx ruthlessly exploit weak regulatory standards and make the local urban populations pay with their health, the NGO which said it drew fuel at local pumps in eight countries to carry out the research said.
“The result was shocking: as our analysis revealed, the diesel samples contained up to 378 times more sulfur than is permitted in Europe. Furthermore, other toxic substances, such as benzene and polycyclical aromatic hydrocarbons, were also found in concentrations that are also banned in Europe,” Public Eye said of findings in the report.
The companies, according to the report however defend the practice, asserting that the fuel meet set standards in the importing countries.
“Their business model relies on an illegitimate strategy of deliberately lowering the quality of fuels in order to increase their profits” at the expense of Africans’ health by adding toxic products that cause diseases, Public Eye added.
Swiss traders provided most fuel imported in 2014 by Nigeria, where fuel standards allow 3,000 parts per million of sulfur in diesel and 1,000 ppm in petrol. The European Union limit is 10 ppm in petrol.
Lagos State government blames vehicles for almost half of the air pollution in Lagos, Africa’s largest city with 20 million people. That does not include tens of thousands of generators that use diesel.
Public Eye said in the report that people in Lagos breathe 13 times more particulate matter than people in London, with dirty fuel the main culprit.
However while the Swiss companies claim raising fuel standards is expensive, Public Eye noted that they adjusted their blends with no increased costs when Ghana lowered its sulfur content level in 2014.
Ironically, the organisation noted that Nigeria and other West African countries produce petroleum with the world’s lowest sulfur levels but have no refining capacity.
“These toxic fuels are mainly mixed in the ARA-Zone (Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp) where Swiss trading firms have their own refineries and storage facilities. Many West African countries that export high grade crude oil to Europe receive toxic low quality fuel in return,” said the NGO.
On how to curb the practice, the organisation said, “To disarm this time bomb the governments of the affected countries need to set and enforce stricter standards. But the Swiss commodity companies, too, must respect human rights wherever they do business — and comply with the UN-Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights adopted in 2011.”