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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.

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Réplique
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Auteur: Public Eye (Switzerland)

...Fuel distributors profit from weak specifications because they allow them to import fuels at lower prices because cheap blendstocks were used to make these fuels. We are surprised to hear that Puma Energy claims to have no control over its supply chain. If fuel supplies are indeed commingled and, Puma Energy isn’t in a position to vary fuel quality, how can they advertise that they sell quality fuels, as they do on their website: “Puma Energy is an empowering energy business: Supplying affordable, high quality products in 47 countries across five continents.”...

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Article
5 October 2016

Sans régulation des marchés, pas de protection des citoyens

Auteur: Christophe Le Bec, Jeune Afrique (France)

Dans un nouveau rapport intitulé « Dirty Diesel » (« diesel sale »), Public Eye, une ONG suisse spécialiste des questions de gouvernance et de transparence dans le négoce de matières premières, met en évidence le caractère très polluant des carburants vendus en Afrique subsaharienne par de grands traders suisses... La plupart des commentateurs ont dénoncé les pratiques de ces négociants qui, dans leur jargon, utilisent le terme péjoratif de « qualité africaine » pour désigner ces carburants. Mais les premiers responsables de cette situation, ce sont les gouvernements africains...

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Article
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Auteur: Puma Energy

As a major fuel supplier in Africa, Puma Energy welcomes Public Eye’s call for a tightening of fuel quality specifications in African countries, and will continue to support co-operation between governments and industry to achieve this goal...As a member of the African Refiners Association (ARA), Puma Energy supports efforts by national governments in Africa to reduce permitted sulphur levels in fuel and welcomed the agreement last year by five East African countries to introduce a lower-sulphur specification for diesel...Q&A from Puma Energy concerning Public Eye report on fuel quality in Africa.

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Auteur: Mercuria

„As mentioned in the report published by Public Eye on fuel deliveries on the African continent, Mercuria confirms that it has no distribution infrastructure or network of service stations in this region. Hence, as the report states, our company is not the target of the study. Nevertheless our group remains committed to complying strictly and transparently to the standards to which it is subjected. Our group works closely with governments to ensure that the delivered products fully comply with the technical specifications defined and imposed by local authorities, and in all countries where our group operates.“

 (Translation provided by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre)

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Auteur: Trafigura

Trafigura is a leading supplier to a number of markets in sub-Saharan Africa of refined petroleum products that meet national regulatory requirements for fuel, for example by blending materials from different sources. These requirements are imposed by national governments and cannot practically be altered by individual suppliers. We support the efforts already underway under the auspices of the African Refiners Association to lower permitted sulphur content in fuels supplied to African markets. This co-operative effort is the right way to effect necessary change. CLICK HERE to read the response letter from the Executive Secretary of the ARA (African Refiners Association) to Public Eye which provides some factual analysis of their report entitled “Dirty Diesel - How Swiss Traders Flood Africa with Toxic Fuels”. [Includes Q&A with Trafigura on report]

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Document
3 October 2016

Réponse de Vitol à Public Eye

Auteur: Vitol

Le rapport publié par Public Eye intitulé "Dirty Diesel" est un article très efficace de propagande. Regrettablement ce rapport n’est ni objectif ni significatif. Son interprétation sélective ainsi que l’usage abusif des informations utilisées pour dépeindre les actions de Vitol et d’autres sociétés de ce secteur ont pour conséquence que le rapport ne reflète pas la réalité et de ce fait, ses recommandations sont erronées... [Où] que Vitol travaille dans le monde, elle prend ses responsabilités HSE très aux sérieux et investit considérablement dans l'amélioration des infrastructures énergétiques de l'Afrique.

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Réponse
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Auteur: Addax & Oryx Group (Switzerland)

Oryx Energies provided extensive information to campaign organisation Public Eye in June 2016, at their request...The report by definition paints quite a bleak picture, as it compares fuel quality found across Africa to the standards set in European countries. In reality, each African country has set specifications for fuel imports, and these are controlled at customs to ensure that they comply before entering the country. As the report observes, all the fuel samples taken fully comply with the respective national regulations....

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Réponse
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2 October 2016

Glencore Response

Auteur: Glencore (Switzerland)

The focus of this report is on the downstream activities of a number of Swiss trading companies. As the report notes (on page 51) Glencore’s downstream presence in Africa is limited and, as a result, the fuel we supply into Africa was not part of Public Eye’s sampling activities. The fuel that Glencore supplies into Africa meets the specifications required by domestic legislation; Glencore does not determine national or regional requirements. For all of our activities, we are committed to complying with or exceeding all laws and external requirements applicable to our operations and products...

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Rapport
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2 October 2016

Vitol's Response

Auteur: Vitol

The Public Eye document entitled “Dirty Diesel” is a highly effective piece of propaganda. Regrettably, as an objective or meaningful report it falls short. Its use and misuse of selective information to portray the actions of Vitol and a select few of its peers means that the report does not reflect reality and its recommendations are consequently flawed...Vitol takes its HSE responsibilities seriously wherever it works and is investing extensively in upgrading Africa's energy infrastructure, from EU standard terminals in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa to a large gas to power project in Ghana...

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Article
2 October 2016

Une ONG sénégalaise porte plainte contre les responsables du trafic de carburants toxiques en Afrique

Auteur: Agence Ecofin

La Ligue sénégalaise des droits de l’homme (LSDH) a déposé, le 26 septembre, une plainte avec constitution de partie civile contre les responsables du scandale du trafic de carburants toxiques en Afrique...

La LSDH reprend les résultats de l’enquête «Dirty Diesel» menée par Public Eye et qui a montré que des géants de négoce pétrolier Vitol, Trafigura et AOG écoulent en Afrique des carburants qui ont une teneur en soufre entre 200 et 1000 fois plus élevée qu’en Europe, mettant gravement en péril la santé de populations exposées aux particules fines et à d’autres substances chimiques cancérigènes.

Elle demande d’inculper les personnes qui seraient en lien avec les faits incriminés des chefs de trafic de produits pétroliers nocifs, mais aussi de poursuivre pour complicité ou négligence celles qui auraient pu, de leur position, éviter de tels faits...

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