Watch out for fuel adulteration.

“Recent price increases indicate that it is quite possible diesel fuel will reach R25/litre in the current volatile energy market,” says Hennie Botha, Director Fleet, at Key Hire, and adds – “This means a 100-litre medium truck fuel tank will carry R2500 worth of diesel and is regarded by criminals as a mobile ATM. Fuel is a highly negotiable commodity and easily adulterated with paraffin, below-spec biodiesel, solvents with similar diesel fuel characteristics, and even water.”

Fuel skimming goes hand in hand with adulteration. It is where a small amount of fuel is taken regularly so that it is not noticeable because it is the ‘way it has always been’. Fuel skimming becomes a budgeted fraud.

Botha points out that there are many symptoms of fuel adulteration which may occur together:

  • Hard start – direct injection diesel engines start instantly without continuous cranking
  • Higher operating temperatures
  • Increased consumption
  • Low fuel delivery to combustion chamber leading to lack of power
  • Dilution of engine oil via piston sleeves – shortens oil-change service intervals
  • Misfire
  • Jerking
  • Increased emissions – exhaust smoke is a sure-fire indicator
  • Complete and expensive injector failure leading to engine loss

Adding illuminating paraffin to diesel fuel is illegal – there is a chemical marker in diesel intended to indicate to inland revenue inspectors that fuel has been adulterated. And the process of swapping diesel fuel for adulterated ‘muti’ does not have to happen at the home base – this most often happens ‘enroute’ away from observation and supervision. Vehicle telematics is part of useful countermeasures.

Fuel adulteration is theft. This fact must be written into job descriptions and all staff must be aware that fuel blending is a dismissible offence. Make everyone conscious that adulteration is under consistent monitoring.

Here are a few additional countermeasures:

  • Tamper proof “seals” on fuel tanks – especially effective if there are no refills enroute

  • Fuel Density checks 

    • Filter paper

    • Hydrometer

    • Refractometer – diesel fuel has a specific gravity of around 0,85 

    • Laboratory sample checks

  • Point of source testing at bulk storage dispensing stations

The lack of law enforcement and strict fuel control measures make fuel adulteration an attractive loophole to ‘boosting profits’ and in some cases even survival.

If you wish to discuss this or for more information, please contact Hennie Botha at 031 713 3145 or at 074 331 1354.