More than 20% of the cars in South Africa are still run on lead-replacement petrol (LRP), despite only about 1% of them having a technical requirement for it.
South Africa phased out leaded fuel in 2006 and introduced LRP. Strangely, there are only about three markets in Africa that use LRP, all of which, including South Africa, are in the Southern African Development Community region, says Shell South Africa fuel specialist Raymond Abraham. The rest of Africa made the transition straight to unleaded fuels.
Abraham says there is a lot of education required in the local market to steer customers away from LRP. Shell South Africa retail GM Klaas Mantel believes this is so because petrol customers tend to make a decision on what petrol they will use when they buy a car, and stick to it until they buy their next car.
In terms of cleaner fuels, he says Shell has been working closely with the authorities, specifically the Department of Energy and the Department of Science and Tech-nology, to assess the feasibility of using Clean Fuels 2 and the next generation of fuels in the country.
It has been proposed by government that, by 2017, all the local refineries should be capable of producing Euro 5-standard fuels, which specifies a sulphur content of 10 ppm at most. Also, in 2013, there should be an interim or transition fuel for Euro 5 fuels ahead of the 2017 deadline.
He adds that Shell is working with government on biofuels. He believes the delay in its introduction is mainly the result of government not yet having introduced its biofuels strategy. Further, there are commercial viability concerns about agricultural production by farmers.
Since 2006, the company has expanded its product offering from one leaded petrol, one unleaded petrol and one diesel fuel to lead-replacement petrol (LRP), 93 and 95 unleaded petrol in inland markets, 50 ppm sulphur diesel and 500 ppm diesel. Mantel says there was a 30% year-on-year growth from 2008 to 2010 in the use of 95 unleaded petrol in the inland market.
Mantel says fuel giant Shell has seen a lot of customer migration from petrol to diesel, with about a quarter of all new passenger cars now diesel-run. The latest high-tech, high-performance truck engines now also require high-specification fuels. Most new petrol-run cars are designed for 95 octane and some even for 98 petrol or higher.
Abraham says, generally, for every 1 kg of fuel burnt, only 33% goes to work to drive the wheels of the car, resulting in a huge amount of wasted energy. Fuel injectors inject fuel through tiny microscopic holes, which need to be kept clean and free from deposits for fuel to enter the engine ideally. Over time, carbon deposits can build up in diesel fuel injection systems, reducing power and engine efficiency.
Abraham explains that engines are designed to run on 14 parts air and one part fuel and, when the air and fuel mixture enters the inlet valve, its air and fuel stoichiometric proportions need to be precise to ensure complete combustion inside the engine. Carbon deposits on inlet valves not only block the air entering the combustion chamber but also absorb the fuel entering the engine, disproportioning the air and fuel and prohibiting complete combustion inside the engine.
Shell V-Power Unleaded and Shell V-Power Diesel have double action formulae, which contain a detergent designed to remove, and prevent the build-up of carbon deposits on intake valves and fuel injectors and improve the mixing of air to ensure more complete combustion. This reduces wasted energy in the engine and helps to achieve the best performance, throughout its lifetime. Over time, the fuel restores the injectors to near their original condition and allows the engine to deliver more power for longer.
He adds that Shell V-Power Diesel has a high cetane number for improved combustion. The higher the cetane number, the smaller the ignition delay and the time in which the fuel takes to burn.
Mantel says Shell V-Power Unleaded and Shell V-Power Diesel are aimed at customers seeing performance benefits, while Shell Diesel Extra and Unleaded Extra are aimed at those with a more functional, economical focus. The latter assists customers to get the most economical drive with longer-lasting fuels adding extra kilometres at no extra cost, and protecting the engine against deposits and corrosion at no extra cost. It will be offered at more Shell stations in time.