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Africa: Oil trading firms accused of selling "Dirty Diesel", causing illnesses & early deaths

In September 2016, Public Eye (a Swiss NGO formerly known as Berne Declaration) published a major report accusing Switzerland-based oil trading companies of selling in African markets blends of low-grade fuel high in pollutants that could not be sold in Europe, contributing to air pollution, illness, and premature deaths.  The report was "the result of three years of research", according to Public Eye, including sampling of fuel at pumps in eight African countries, "all owned, partly-owned or supplied by Swiss trading companies".  Their principal findings: "In diesel, we found sulphur levels up to 380 times the European legal limit and up to 630 times the average levels of diesel sold in Western Europe. In gasoline, we found sulphur levels up to 70 times the European legal limit and over 100 times the average levels of gasoline sold in Europe. We found other worrying health damaging substances in concentrations never allowed in a European or US fuel, such as polyaromatics (diesel), aromatics and benzene (gasoline)."

The report urges:

  • African governments to set more stringent fuel quality standards
  • Swiss trading companies to "stop abusing Africa’s low fuel quality standards, recognize that if left unchanged their practices will kill more and more people across the continent"
  • the governments of Netherlands, Belgium & USA (export hubs for African fuels) to prohibit the export of health-damaging fuel blends
  • the Swiss government to "implement mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence requirements for Swiss companies, covering the entire supply chain and including potentially toxic products"

Public Eye sought responses from the companies in the report prior to publication and published the companies' responses; however, the report raised further concerns based on those statements.  Trafigura and Puma Energy responded to the report shortly after its publication.  Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited the principal other companies named in the report to respond.  Addax & Oryx Group, MercuriaGlencore, Vitol and Vivo responded. Mocoh has indicated that it is preparing a full response, which we will post here when we receive it.  Gunvoh and Lynx Energy have not yet responded; we will indicate here whether they respond.

Public Eye has commented on the responses provided by the companies - the replies by Public Eye to the responses by Vitol, Vivo, Puma and Trafigura are provided below.

Company Responses

Glencore View Response
Addax & Oryx Group View Response
Vivo Energy (joint venture Vitol, Helios Investment Partners, Shell) View Response

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