Progress On The Fuel Marking Program In Zambia Against Fuel Adulteration And Dumping

The Energy Regulation Board (ERB) commenced the marking of fuel in Zambia on 15th February 2018. This followed the promulgation of the Statutory Instrument:  “Energy Regulation (Fuel Marking and Monitoring) Regulations, No. 69 of 2017”.

Fuel marking is a process of adding an invisible bio-chemical substance in small and prescribed quantities to all legitimate fuel sold in the country. The fuel marker which acts as a stamp or “finger print” is added to fuel at all depots for Government and selected Oil Marketing Companies. An invisible marker is added directly into road tankers or rail wagons at the point of uplift prior to despatch into the local market. The fuel marker gives each fuel product a unique identification to enable detection when the fuel is adulterated with transit or smuggled fuel and other sub-standard substances. The marking of fuel is aimed at distinguishing fuel destined for specific markets within the country such as the mines, filling stations and transits. It is also intended to tackle illegal fuel vending which is normally prevalent in border areas, North Western Province and Western Provinces, particularly in Lukulu District.

It should be noted that at the commencement of the fuel marking programme in Zambia in February 2018, illegal fuel activity at filling stations was approximately 21% with a pass rate of 79%. This translated in a loss of about $81 million per annum through tax avoidance. In addition to loss of tax revenue, illegal fuel vending has adverse effects on the environment and human health from combustion of adulterated commonly known as ‘changanya’ and contaminated fuel. Adulteration compromises the quality of fuel resulting in damage to motor vehicles and equipment. Illegal fuel vending further distorts the playing field because unscrupulous people have undue advantage over law abiding and tax compliant licensees.

However, with the coming on board of the fuel marking program a number of successes have been achieved as follows:

  1. Increased quality compliance rate at filling stations of over 96% compared to 79% at the start of the program;
  2. Reduction in incidents of kerosene contamination with no kerosene adulteration being detected in the field.
  3. Increase in fuel marked from all marking depots from about 87,000 cubic meters at the start of the fuel marking program in February 2018 to about 146,000 cubic meters recorded in August 2020. This represents about 40% increase in marked fuel.
  4. Recovery of about 300,000 litres of fuel from illegal fuel vendors worth about K4.4 million since inception of the fuel marking program . This was done through the ERB facilitated Illegal Fuel Vending Task force consisting of Government Security and Investigating Wings. The ERB remains committed to work with other Law Enforcement and Investigative Wings of Government to root out the scourge of illegal fuel vending.
  5. Since the program commenced thirteen (13) people have been prosecuted and convicted of illegal fuel vending. Eight (08) cases are still pending in the courts of law.

In order to consolidate achieved successes, the ERB has heightened enforcement and surveillance activities throughout the country. This is conducted through continuous impromptu sampling and testing of fuel at all filling stations, petroleum tankers distributing fuel throughout the country and all consumer fuel storage facilities for own use. Consumer fuel storage facilities for own use include those at the mines and allied industries, construction sites, transport and logistics, the agricultural sector such as farms and any storage facility where fuel is received and stored.

The ERB wishes to remind players in the petroleum sector to ensure that every fuel consignment being either transported or received has a valid fuel marking certificate issued by the ERB. Failure to comply with the above requirement will result in enforcement action being taken against the erring entity.

We further wish to remind all industry players that under the Fuel Marking Statutory Instrument No. 69 of 2017, it is an offence to be in possession of or sell, distribute, or transportg non-conforming petroleum product. The SI 69 on fuel marking further provides for the imposition of fines not exceeding one hundred thousand (100,000) penalty units (K30, 000) or imprisonment (once convicted) for a period not exceeding two (02) years or to both. The Board shall suspend or revoke the licence of a licensee convicted of an offence

The ERB is further appealing to the motoring public, minibus and taxi drivers in particular to ensure that they refuel only from ERB licensed filling stations. I wish to emphasise that the quality of fuel sold by illegal fuel vendors poses a great risk as it is from illegal sources and as such cannot be guaranteed by the ERB. By refuelling from illegal fuel vendors, motorists risk damaging their vehicles, and further, they will have no recourse as they are perpetrating criminal activities. In the event of clarifications and/or additional information on Fuel Marking interested parties and members of the public are encouraged to contact the ERB offices in Lusaka, Kitwe, Livingstone or Chinsali or call the ERB Toll Free line 8484.