My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: BSJ and Petrojam investigating contaminated Gasoline in Jamaica - Why Homemade Gasoline is to blame

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

BSJ and Petrojam investigating contaminated Gasoline in Jamaica - Why Homemade Gasoline is to blame

“Petrol is very volatile commodity and we must do all we can to protect the integrity of the trade. With respect to the legal importation of petrol, we must ensure its quality from ship to pump, while every effort must be made to stamp out illicit importation of the product”

Minister of Energy Phillip Paulwell after issueing an islandwide Petrol test of all gasolene Service stations

The BSJ (Bureau of Standards) Jamaica has been caught napping on the job yet again. This time it's not sub-standard blocks as noted in my blog article entitled “Why Collapse due to BSJ's Faulty Block makers may occur spontaneously without an Earthquake”. 

This as several complaints of bad gasolene have prompted islandwide testing of all Petrol Stations as noted in the article “Petrojam to test gas at all service stations”, published Tuesday, December 22, 2015, The Jamaica Observer.

Minister of Science, Technology Energy and Miming Phillip Paulwell issued this edict on Monday December 20 2015 during an emergency meeting at the Ministry with the BSJ, the CAC (Consumer Affairs Commission), marketing companies and service station retailers as announced in the Press Release entitled “Energy Minister addresses substandard petrol incidence”, published Monday December 21, 2015 by Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy & Mining, Go-Jamaica

The tests are being carried out by Petrojam and the BSJ after several motorists over several weeks complained to the CAC (Consumer Affairs Commission) of sub-standard Gasolene damaging their motor vehicles. Particularly, this sub-standard Gasolene seems to be causing damaging to newer vehicle engines that use direct injection mechanisms.

They're literally working against the clock, as they have only 24 hours to test all service stations islandwide so that the service station operators who are selling bad gasolene do not have time to drain their tanks and dump the bad petrol. Then they have to file a report to the Ministry of Ministry of Energy and Mining within 7 days.

So far, there has been nothing but co-operation from the JGRA (Jamaica Gasolene Retailers’ Association) as noted in the article “Gasolene Retailers Welcome Gov't's Islandwide Petrol Test Order”, Published Tuesday December 22, 2015, The Jamaica Gleaner.

So what type of contaminant could be causing this type of damage?

Contaminant damaging Fuel-Injector systems – Organic contaminant with dissolved solids

All this may seem a bit strange, but quite it's logical, really, if you are a chemistry student.

Albeit the service station retailers are suspected of selling sub-standard gasolene, up until this point it's basically an allegation. Thus this rapid islandwide test isn't aimed at finding the guilty party, but determining the type of contaminant in the gasolene as well as the source.

Petrojam is involved as their expertise is necessary to make sure that the contaminant isn't coming from their refinery. So this leaves us with the timeframe as aside from preventing the guilty service station retailers from being able to dump their gasolene, it also may be because of the type of contaminant.

This is where a bit of chemistry comes into play. So let’s consider what we know.

A typical fuel injector is computer controlled and uses a series of pumps and filters to take gasolene to the fuel injectors. The first of these pumps is a Primary Filter that removes water followed by a mechanical lift pump that pressurizes the gasolene.

It then pushes it towards the Main Engine fuel filter that removes solid contaminants like sulphur a carbon before the fuel is finally fed into the Mechanical fuel injector pump. The Mechanical fuel injector pump separates the fuel into four distinct fuel lines and pumps it towards the fuel injectors, with any waste fuel being filtered back to the gasolene tank.

With this much filtration, it implies that the contaminant may have a short half life. This is not in the radioactive sense, but in terms of its potency. It might break down if it sits for a long time in the service station retailers' underground storage tanks, hence the 24 hour timeframe to collect samples and test for the contaminant.

Also its ability to affect vehicles use fuel injectors suggests that it may be a liquid contaminant or if solid, is soluble in gasolene. After all, it had to be able to pass through the filters at both the service station retailers as well as the vehicle's fuel filters to have escaped detection for so long.

Finally its effect on fuel injector engines implies that this contaminant effect on the engines may be due to the concentration of the contaminant in the gasolene.

Homemade Gasolene with extra sulphur – Centrifuge and Reagents to remove sulphur

Considering all this information, the logical occlusion is that the contaminant is an organic liquid compound, possibly with a solid contaminant dissolved.

This rules out water as water would sink to the bottom of your vehicles Gas tank and most vehicles draw fuel from the bottom, which the 30 micro Primary filter removes.

However, the most likely contaminant could be homemade gasolene with too much sulphur, as evidenced by the fact that persons who've reported this problem have had to also change their fuel Main Engine fuel filter, possibly clogged with sulphur deposits.

Homemade gasolene is made by pyrolysis of Rubber from tyres or even plastics as described in my blog article entitled “How Car Tyres and Plastics from Riverton City dump can make Diesel and Gasolene”.

However, sulphur, a Group VI element, is soluble in such homemade gasolene, isn't so easy to remove. It requires special reagents or additives that would have to be reacted with the finished product to cause the sulphur to settle out as a precipitate from the gasolene and diesel.

Then a centrifuge would have to be used to separate gasolene, diesel, water and then the sulphur/carbon precipitate, into separate layers, with the gasolene on top as the lightest fraction. You would then decant the top layers, filtering them further and throw away the bottom layer which would be full of carbon and sulphur precipitates.

Most persons who make homemade gasolene do not know how to make a centrifuge, muchless how to separate the different fractions of gasolene from the diesel, sulphur and water. So many of them merely filter it and decide to take a chance with it in their vehicles, with negative results.

Gasolene Retailers or motorists at fault – Dispute with Rubis may be a reason

In short, the fault of the homemade sub-standard gasolene may lie with either the drivers or the service station retailers.

The drivers may be buying cheaper gasolene from persons making homemade gasolene who are not centrifuging the gasolene or adding additives to separate the gasolene from the other vacuum pyrolysis by-products, mainly sulphur. 

It might also be a case where the service station retailers are buying the homemade gasolene in bulk and placing it in their underground Storage tanks. This is totally plausible, as the service station retailers, many of whom are members of the JGRA, may have not liked the contractual arrangements with Rubis.

This as Rubis had plans to introduce 1 year contracts in lieu of the regular 3 year contracts as explained in the article “Gasolene Retailers At Odds With Rubis Over Contractual Arrangements”, published Sunday December 20, 2015, by Neville Graham, The Jamaica Gleaner.

The tests being conducted jointly by Petrojam as well as BSJ will help to figure out who is the guilt party. However, whether there will be any form of compensation or arrests of the makers of the homemade sub-standard gasolene remains to be seen.

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