Multiple sources have said the downgrade of petrol’s specification for local consumption will also go against the government’s overall strategy to ensure the country's safe environment
The Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) has proposed allowing the import of downgraded petrol, ignoring its own standard set nine years ago.
According to petroleum industry insiders, the move is going against the government’s effort to gradually improve fuel quality for motor vehicles to protect the environment.
A BSTI official document showed that the organization is making the move responding to the demand of a section of petroleum refiners considering the “real situation,” which has not been explained.
However, the officials of the Industries Ministry, which controls the BSTI, said that there has been no final decision on the proposal yet.
“Some parties, including petrol pump owners, appealed for downgrading petrol’s specification to us. But a decision is yet to be taken,” said Industries Secretary KM Ali Azam.
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Official sources said the BSTI has already sent a letter to the industries secretary recently, to allow downgrading petrol’s specification from existing RON (research octane number) 89 to RON 87.
The organization in 2019 upgraded petrol’s specification to RON 89 from RON 87 to ensure a cleaner environment. It would protect the engines of motor vehicles, which would result in less emission.
Earlier in 2012, the BSTI had upgraded petrol’s specification by seven points to RON 87 from the previous RON of 80.
Multiple sources have said the downgrade of petrol’s specification for local consumption will also go against the government’s overall strategy to ensure the country's safe environment through the consumption of cleaner petroleum products.
They said that despite higher expenditure, the state-owned Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) has started importing cleaner Diesel having 0.005% sulfur from July 2020, replacing the previous specification of a higher 0.05% sulfur content.
The BPC has also started importing cleaner marine fuel with 0.5% sulfur from July 2020 instead of the previous dirty 180 CST high sulfur fuel oil with 3.5% sulfur as per the International Maritime Organization (IMO) guideline for cleaner environments.
Bangladesh consumes around 350,000 tons of petrol annually, according to BPC statistics.
Sources have said the quality of petrol in neighbouring countries is much cleaner than Bangladesh, as India has RON 91, Pakistan has RON 92, Sri Lanka has RON 92 and Myanmar has RON 92 specifications for domestic consumption.
When contacted, a senior BSTI official preferring anonymity, said the BSTI has moved to downgrade the specification of petrol responding to an appeal by the Petrochemical and Refiners Association of Bangladesh (PRAB).
In a letter to the Ministry of Industries (MOI) in February last year, PRAB urged to downgrade petrol’s specification to RON 80, which was in use nine years ago before 2012, he said.
The MOI subsequently sought comments from the BSTI over the PRAB appeal, he said.
Against HC verdict
The BSTI’s committees on mineral, fuel, petroleum products and chemical division discussed the issue and recommended downgrading petrol’s specification to RON 87, bringing its specification to the level of two years back, or pre-2019 level, in local markets considering, what they claimed as “national interest” and the “current socio economic status” of the country.
However, the Energy and Mineral Resources Division under the Ministry of Power, Energy, and Mineral Resources disagreed with the BSTI proposal.
Sources said the step to downgrade petrol’s specification goes against a High Court verdict issued in January 2020 to ensure production and use of environment-friendly petroleum products.
Following an appeal from a consumer, the court in January last year directed all concerned including the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, the MOI, the BSTI, and the BPC to ensure and supervise that all petroleum filling stations across the country sell petrol, octane and diesel as per the specification of the BSTI.