A time of change. Petroleum products quality.

July 23, 2014

Commissioning of the modernized Pancevo Refinery has given Serbia a continuous supply of top quality fuel that fully complies with the Euro-5 standard.
A belief lives on that there are service stations to refuel at, and then there are those to steer clear of. One would be hard pressed to find a driver without a personal “tank-up success formula” ensuring their vehicle’s longevity. If these ideas could find some justification in the past, now it is perfectly clear that at any petrol station we can find what we are looking for. Official figures are testament to that. Numerous processes reflect oil processing industry’s focus on bringing its output in line with the applicable legal regulations and environmental standards. The local power generation industry has a lot to do to achieve the leading countries’ level as the motor fuels quality directly affects not only car engine service life, but exhaust gases emissions and air quality. First and foremost the reputation of Serbia’s complete crude oil processing industry is at stake, as it is compelled by the current European integration processes to streamline and standardize the offer of petroleum products and thus regain consumers’ confidence. Compliance with legal requirements related to liquid fuels is also crucial as car traffic is by far the largest air pollutant.

Burden of the Past

The recent past, however, was completely different. There were not many reasons encouraging optimism as in the past two decades Serbia has occupied an unenvied position on the fuel quality map. The lack of relevant legislation, along with the failure to observe existing laws, a poor inspection system, and the negative impact from an economic embargo, set the stage for illicit dealings in the petroleum products market. In the aftermath of  this turmoil the quality nose-dived, which put off consumers and spelled complications in daily fuel handling. In that period Serbia suffered greatly as there could be absolutely no comparison of its assortment on offer and the fuel quality level with the counterparts in the neighbouring countries, which was increasingly apparent to all who travelled outside the country. Reduced consumption, better performance and steady engine operation when using foreign fuel made it clear that Serbia was in a position much worse than its economically developed neighbours Slovenia and Hungary. Serbia’s petroleum products market has lately been on the rebound and is evidently poised to catch up with those countries further ahead in the EU accession process. Credible comparison and position is still elusive, but compliance with respective standards has unequivocally ensured the supply of petrol stations across Serbia with fuel increasingly on a par with its counterpart available outside the country, in EU market. Contemporary standards may not be fully in place yet, but the whole previous year and the beginning of 2014 clearly show that vague market rules and fuel of unknown origin are no more the name of the game. Quality is bound to ensue…

Double Check

The quality and origin of petroleum products undergo dual scrutiny. Administrative examination focuses on record keeping, appropriate documenting and test reporting. The so-called sampling follows. An advanced marking program has recently been introduced to streamline and remove deficiencies of the faulty quality control procedure so far in place. This mandatory activity for petroleum processing adds indicator substances to mark every quantity of petroleum products either produced in Serbia or imported. The monitoring is to comprise all service stations in the country. The marking procedure is so efficient that it shortly detects any illicit blending on the spot. Fuel marking will ensure the supply of the market with petroleum products of the appropriate quality by using certified methods to expose any illegal blending. In the aftermath, the state will benefit tremendously in terms of revenues, and companies will benefit by having their reputations assured. In addition to the increased budget revenues, motorists will also benefit from fuel marking, as they will be sure of the adequate quality of fuel they purchase.
NIS has taken part in the initiation of control measures for the market regulation and the Company expects improvement of the legislative framework to combat gray market.
The latest in nanotechnology has beeninvolved in the fuel marking process. Dedicated chemicals are applied to the fuel in this procedure, which do not compromise quality but make it possible to establish if the fuel is bootleg or belongs to a legal batch in compliance with the current quality standards. It is reckoned that between five and ten per cent of fuel annually sold in Serbia’s market originates from illegal sources. NIS has been instrumental in putting in place these procedures aimed at bringing clear-cut rules for market functioning. The Company staff is hopeful to continue cooperation in its further effort to adopt the required measures and streamline the legislation in the quest to stamp out the grey market. Although fuel marking increases the expenditure both to producers and retailers, NIS shall, as it so far did, make every effort to heavily draw on its internal resources to offer competitive prices to the market.

Progress Acknowledged

Clear-cut globally implemented measures brought about evident improvement. Specifically, the renowned Hart Energy Research&Consulting has confirmed that 15 countries, with Serbia at their helm, have improved their ranking in 2013 due to reducing sulphur content in Diesel fuel. In Serbia, the reform is about offering fuel without sulphur (in quantities below one tenth of a million) since last August which has resulted in an image boost concerning the fuel quality. According to the International Fuel Quality Center, by reducing sulphur levels Serbia joined 47 other countries, whose effective legislation stipulates modern and environmentally determined Diesel fuel. Modernization of NIS’s refining in Pancevo has certainly contributed to this as it has enabled NIS to fully switch to the production of environmentally clean fuel - unleaded petrol and Euro diesel with a sulphur content not exceeding 10 ppm, which corresponds to the “Euro 5” standard.

Let Experts Have Their Say

- In recent years, the quality of petroleum products improved in the wake of revamped petroleum products processing within NIS and a great care that major fuel importers dedicate to quality control – asserts Dr Dragoslava Stojiljković, a fulltime professor at the Belgrade University Mechanical Engineering Department. A fuel quality expert, Dr Dragoslava Stojiljković, draws attention to other daily hindrances to top quality. -  Unfortunately, problems in daily operations are still apparent. They emerge in the aftermath of illicit blending of various substances with crude originating fuels with the aim to evade the payment of excise duties and VAT. It is for that reason that faulty engine operation happens. Region-wise, year in, year out programmes have been endorsed in Croatia, for example, to monitor fuel quality control in compliance with EN14274 Standard, which stipulates a minimum of samples to undergo compulsory control – Ms Stojiljković says. With a view to catch up with petroleum product sales leaders in the market, Serbia is poised to introduce a fuel quality control monitoring system. Quality control is monitored by taking samples from randomly picked refuelling stations in winter and summer. The standard concerned stipulates not less than one hundred samples for engine gasoline, i.e. Diesel fuel in a season. Thus, consumers are invariably supplied with quality fuel, while the suppliers, who fail to meet the required standards, will be fined and their incompliant retail points closed down. EU countries recommend that media take an active role in the process by timely informing the consumers of the substandard refuelling stations.

Custom-made NIS

The fuel selection at a NIS network filling station currently includes: Euro BMB 98 is equally intended for vehicles of newer and older generations. According to its characteristics, this fuel guarantees more horsepower and improved fuel economy compared to BMB 98. Euro Premium BMB 95 is a fuel the composition of which meets precisely defined Euro 5 emission standards. Designed for a new generation of vehicles, it contributes to their preservation and improvement of the environment. When it comes to diesel fuels, Euro Diesel distinguishes itself by its quality in line with EU standards. It contributes to optimal vehicle performance, reliable engine starting and steady engine operation, even at low temperatures. Together with these, quieter operation and reduced fuel consumption give an all-round picture of the features that fully support the EN 590 standard. As an alternative to conventional engine fuels, NIS Petrol also offers to its consumers LPG, adapted to modern machines. The main advantages of LPG are its economy, extended engine life and lower maintenance costs. We should not ignore the environmental dimension, as well as complementarity with EU 589 standard. NIS recently began producing gasoline with a higher octane rating i.e. BMB 100, which contributes to better engine performance, its prolonged operating life and reduced emissions. This article was published in the 2nd issue of Energize magazine.