November 21 2013 at 08:00am By Londiwe Buthelezi
Johannesburg - Sasol has launched the cleanest diesel available in South Africa, with ultra-low sulphur (ULS) content of 10 parts per million (ppm), but consumers may have to dig deep if fuel retailers sell it at a premium.
Mohamed Carrim, the retail manager at Sasol Oil, said although the cost of the fuel, dubbed turbodiesel ULS, to its franchises was the same as 50ppm diesel, the company could not dictate the price consumers would pay because the retail price of diesel was not regulated in the country.
“It is superior to 50ppm so there will be a premium to it. Retailers can choose to add the premium or keep the full retail gate price,” he said.
The diesel has the lowest sulphur content available in South Africa and Sasol said it had advanced detergency and lubricity properties to keep engines and fuel injection systems clean.
“We have done lab and field studies to back that claim. We have proof,” Carrim said.
The product has sparked a debate among consumers in car forums, with some arguing over the cost effectiveness of buying the “expensive” 10ppm when no scientific evidence had been put forward that the diesel would reduce fuel consumption significantly.
Sasol said the turbodiesel ULS technology reduced fuel consumption on both old and new generation engines and with its ability to improve acceleration and enhanced detergency, it meant better fuel economy for car owners.
The fuel is available at 78 filling stations in Gauteng and Mpumalanga and will be rolled out to the rest of the inland region in the next two years.
“Unfortunately, it will not be available in the coastal regions. It’s already a challenge to get the 50ppm there. And 10ppm is only available from Secunda so the cost of transporting it, the long distances, it’s impractical,” Carrim said.
The cost of transporting Sasol’s turbodiesel ULS is higher because it needs dedicated trucks and cannot be transported with other fuels.
But Sasol said it would absorb these transportation costs by using its own trucks, avoiding passing this cost on to its franchises as this could have an effect on the retail price.
South Africa’s roadmap towards cleaner fuel, which will reduce the allowable sulphur content to 10ppm, was originally expected to begin in 2017. But in 2011 the former minister of energy, Dipuo Peters, said the introduction could come as early as 2013.
However, to date, the Clean Fuels 2 draft fuel specifications and standards have not been finalised.
Some European and North American countries have been using 10ppm ULS diesel since 2006 and this is the maximum allowable sulphur content in these regions.
There have been some limitations in bringing in the latest technology vehicles from these countries to South Africa as they are fitted with exhaust after-treatment devices which require less regeneration effort to keep them active.
Carrim said it was understandable that South Africa was only catching up now as these economies were more mature.
He said Sasol had received a positive response from local car manufacturers.
Matt Gennrich, the general manager of communications at Volkswagen South Africa (VWSA), said he was aware of one VW car owner participating in a forum who claimed to have spoken to an expert at VW Port Elizabeth who had misgivings, but the concern that he was spreading was untrue.
“The lower ppm the better. We welcome Sasol’s introduction way ahead of the mandatory introduction,” he said.