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THE ‘METHANOL/ETHANOL – FUEL’ STORY OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA

Mobolaji Abidoye Written by Spreado · 2 min read >

It all started on Tuesday (8th February 2022), the newly created government agency in charge of midstream and downstream operations of the NNPC Ltd., the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) said it found methanol above national specifications in the imported gasoline. The regulator said efforts to remove the contaminated products from circulation caused long queues at many filling stations.

Regardless of this discovery, methanol, in small amounts, in small quantities is a globally accepted additive for the refining of gasoline. However, the damage had already been done to some vehicles in the FCT and Lagos.

By Wednesday 9th of February 2022, the chairman of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), released a statement confirming that all the vessels with the products had been identified and measures were being taken to recall the adulterated product from distribution.

He confirmed that there were about 136 reported cases of issues with cars at Ardova Plc. At the end of the federal executive council (FEC) meeting, Timipre Sylva, minister of state for petroleum, said the government would investigate possible compensation for Nigerians whose automobiles had been damaged by the contaminated fuel. Something that seemed far-fetched considering the difficulties of getting any funds from federal coffers.

With all the attention on the government and what its next line of action will be, this blog takes a brief look at the history of the import of adulterated fuel into Nigeria.

FOUL-SMELLING FUEL — LATE GENERAL SANI ABACHA (1997)

In 1997, an offensive odour premium motor spirit (PMS), also known as petrol, was imported into Nigeria during the regime of late General Sani Abacha.

The PMS was “foul fuel”, and it damaged car engines and caused health hazards.

According to archival records, the now-defunct government agency known as Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), distributed the foul-smelling fuel across major cities despite concerns and alarms raised by oil majors at the time — Mobil Nigeria Plc and National Oil Plc. It is however worthy of note that the PPMC eventually apologized (albeit after the damage had been done) to the Nigerian public regarding the incident.

BAD FUEL — LATE UMAR MUSA YAR’ADUA (2008)

During the administration of someone I consider to be the best president Nigeria has had in my most recent memory, Precisely February 2008, Oando PLC delivered 33,000 metric tons of gasoline imported from Gunvor International BV Amsterdam.

After several reports of damaging vehicles, Oando said in a press statement that the fuel was contaminated with ethanol — after confirming with the supplier.

The defunct Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) passed the product despite regulatory tests and checks at the port — but did not test for ethanol, which is not part of the specification of Nigeria grade for gasoline.

In a press release, Oando said –

“We asked our suppliers what this material could be, and we were informed that it was ethanol for the first time. We asked for the samples at load port to be retested for the ethanol level and on the 29th of February 2008, we were given a result of 20%,”

“The fact that the product contained a high content of ethanol was not reflected in the original certificate of quality issued at the load port nor was it revealed to us by the supplier prior to the 28th of February 2008.”

Just when we thought we had heard the last of the adulterated fuel situation, we were hit with another which led to serious questions being asked about our testing parameters.

MUHAMMADU BUHARI (2022)

In January 2022, petroleum product with methanol quantities above Nigeria’s specification was imported into the country.

Mele Kyari, the group managing director of the NNPC Ltd, said the methanol-blended petrol was imported into the country by a few suppliers through four premium motor Spirit cargoes under its Direct Sales Direct Purchase (DSDP) arrangement.

The DSDP arrangement is part of strategies by the NNPC to ensure a sustained supply of petroleum products in the country.

Kyari said the DSDP suppliers include MRS, Emadeb/Hyde/AY Maikifi/Brittania-U Consortium, Oando, Duke Oil, NNPC subsidiary.

He said all the suppliers of the contaminated petrol had been put on notice for “remedial action”.

It is important to note that in all these occurrences, one thing is constant, the testing is lacking and in over 2 decades of democratic rule, we have not solved it. All we can hope for is that this is a lesson for the regulators to pay more attention and do what is necessary to ensure only the very best blend is delivered to Nigeria. Such issues raise anticipation on the need for local refining where accountability will be on our shores and not far away in Europe, Asia, or the Americas.

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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Chinyere Monye in General
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