BERA PHASES OUT HIGH SULPHUR DIESEL

The Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) has embarked on a nationwide campaign to phase out high sulphur content diesel from the Botswana market with effect from 1st January 2021.

BERA PHASES OUT HIGH SULPHUR DIESEL

The Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) has embarked on a nationwide campaign to phase out high sulphur content diesel from the Botswana market with effect from 1st January 2021.

Acting Director of Petroleum at BERA, Batsumi Rankokwane said in an interview that the Authority has embarked on a nationwide campaign to sensitize Batswana about the decision to phase out diesel 500ppm from the Botswana market by end of year.

“There are two grades of diesel on sale in Botswana, the diesel 500 ppm and diesel 50ppm. The diesel 500 ppm is an older product which has high sulphur content. It is therefore being phased out in line with government’s commitment to promoting the use of cleaner fuels and global initiatives aimed at reducing carbon emissions,” he said.

He explained that deliberations on the phasing out of high sulphur content diesel started in 2008 when Southern African Development Community (SADC) Ministers signed the Lusaka agreement (SADC Regional Policy Framework on Air Pollution), through which they committed to reducing air pollution. They would do so through measures such as enacting regulations to reduce sulphur levels in fuels to 500 ppm (parts per million) by end of 2010, as an intermediate step for countries that import refined fuel. The SADC countries would also enact regulations to reduce sulphur levels in fuels to 50 ppm from 2010 onwards for both refining and importing countries.

“Members states also committed to promoting the harmonization of fuel standards, completing the phasing out of leaded gasoline and enforcing regulations against the procurement, sale and use of fuels that do not meet current fuel specifications,” said Rankokwane.

The decision by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2015 to classify sulphur as a carcinogen also pressured countries to make concerted efforts towards reducing fuel emissions by phasing out high sulphur diesel.

In 2017, SADC countries set December 2022 as the deadline by which all member states that import fuel would have phased out 500ppm diesel. States with refining capacity were given until December 2025 to have stopped production of high sulphur content diesel.

Rankokwane revealed that Botswana committed to phasing out 500 ppm diesel by December 2020, two years before the deadline. He further revealed that BERA has been working in collaboration with the local oil industry and the Ministry of Mineral Resources Green Technology and Energy Security to ensure that the transition is implemented smoothly. He added that the Authority has, through consultations with the local motor industry, noted an increasing demand for the use of low sulphur content diesel in newer vehicle models.

“The motor industry indicated to us that the technology in most of their latest models like VW and Land Cruiser were not compatible with the use of diesel 500ppm as they required low sulphur content diesel. Therefore, we were also facilitating the motor industry by phasing out 500ppm diesel,” he said.

The local petroleum industry also supported the decision, saying they would no longer have to incur high maintenance cost related to storage and handling both the diesel 50ppm and diesel 500ppm.

The high sulphur content diesel also poses a serious threat to human health and welfare. As a carcinogen, sulphur is believed to be one of the substances causing cancer in humans. Sulphur, when it combines with water to form sulphuric acid, has a significant and increasing corrosive impact on crops, natural ecosystems and man-made materials.

Most consumers interviewed by BERA also testified that their vehicles perform efficiently and sound much better when they use 50ppm diesel. This is because diesel 50ppm optimises performance and preserves the engine. Rankokwane said the diesel 50ppm, as a premium product, has a six thebe per litre price differential when compared to diesel 500ppm. He however highlighted that there are significant social and economic benefits to be gained by using the low sulphur diesel.

“Weighed against the six thebe difference in price, the advantages of preserving the environment and people’s health while facilitating business growth make a compelling case for adoption of 50ppm diesel fuel,” he said. 

BERA is currently in a nationwide tour to inform Batswana about the phasing out of the 500ppm diesel. The campaign will reach Lobatse, Jwaneng, Gantsi, Maun, Francistown, Selebi Phikwe, Kasane, Palapye, Mahalapye and Gaborone.