Vitol, Trafigura, Oryx deny ‘wrong doing’ in toxic fuel scandal


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By Tunji Faleye

The three Swiss traders Vitol, Trafigura and the multi-national energy group Oryx have denied any wrong doing in the importation of toxic fuel into African market.

The report released by Public Eye on Thursday named the three companies in the importation of toxic fuel into African market after testing fuel in Angola, Benin, Congo-Brazzaville, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Senegal and Zambia.
However, Vitol described the report as “inaccurate and misinformed,” stressing that African governments were responsible for setting their own fuel standards. Similarly, Oryx said in a statement that it sells fuel products “that strictly comply with the national legislation of each client country.”

It will be recalled that the report said that European oil companies, especially Swiss commodity traders, are exploiting weak African fuel standards by selling toxic diesel and gasoline across the continent, because sub-Saharan Africa including major oil producers like Angola and Nigeria have limited refining capacity on the continent which means that most African oil is sold as crude on the international market and import fuel products refined abroad, often from European traders.

Switzerland-based, Public Eye did not accuse oil companies of breaking environmental and economic laws in its three-year investigation published, but it charged several firms with using an “illegitimate strategy” to boost profits, hawking so-called “African quality” fuels that have had devastating health and environmental impacts across many sub-Saharan states.

In a 160-page report based on research in eight African countries, Public Eye found fuels sold at the pump which contained high levels of toxins, notably sulphur. Such toxic blends would be illegal to sell in Europe, which caps sulphur rates in fuel at 10 parts per million, Public Eye said. In Africa, sulphur limits are on average 200 times higher.

“By selling such fuels at the pump in Africa, the traders increase outdoor air pollution, causing respiratory disease and premature death,” said the report from Public Eye, a group previously known as the Bern Declaration and founded in 1968.

These transactions often involve regional brokers in Africa, who are sometimes responsible for mixing the fuel.

Public eye called on African governments “to set stringent fuel quality standards” in line with European levels, arguing that was the most effective way to crack down on toxic blends.

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