Abandoned by world, low-grade petrol runs Pakistan

Published: September 13, 2016


ISLAMABAD: Ever wondered why even your brand new car does not perform optimally? Why your engine gives off knocking sounds in higher gear? And despite countless trips to an auto mechanic, why can your car just not be efficient?

The problem lies in the fuel. The standard petrol used by the majority of Pakistanis is of such low grade that it is only consumed in Somalia in the world.

This startling disclosure was made by Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in a recent meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC), the country’s highest economic decision-making body.

Quality of petrol is measured in the amount of octane, normally indexed as the Research Octane Number (RON). In simple terms, the higher the octane number, the higher the performance of gasoline engines. Use of low-octane petrol leads to engine knocking.

While fuel pumps across Pakistan continue to sell RON 87 petrol as the standard, the world moved ahead years ago with almost all countries now running at least on RON 92 petrol. Modern automobiles, especially those with super-charged engines, are designed to operate on RON 92 or even higher rated gasoline. The high octane blending content (HOBC) sold in Pakistan is RON 97.

Officials say the Pakistani refineries produce poor quality petrol and the same quality is imported by the state-run Pakistan State Oil (PSO). International oil suppliers, they allege, export poor quality petrol to only Pakistan and Somalia and this is the reason the vehicles give low mileage and are inefficient.

According to the minutes of the ECC meeting, the petroleum minister said Pakistan needed to improve the quality and standard of the petroleum products being produced by local refineries and also the ones imported by oil marketing companies.

Keeping in view the low international oil prices, he believed it was the right time now for local refineries to switch over from producing RON 87 to higher grade RON 92 premium motor gasoline. This will help with lower emissions and better engine health while improving the experience of the customers, Abbasi claimed.

The price difference between RON 87 and RON 92 petrol comes to about Rs2.74 per litre. However, the actual import cost and the price difference may vary from time to time according to the fluctuations in international oil prices.

The minister said a number of options were under consideration to improve the quality of locally produced petrol since refineries require substantial investment to acquire technology to produce RON 92.

He also suggested the import of gasoline below RON 92 should be stopped from the next PSO import tender cycle and proposed chalking out a two-year timeline for Attock Refinery to make necessary arrangements for local production of RON 92.

After detailed discussions, the ECC accepted the minister’s suggestion to stop the import of petrol below RON 92 from the next import cycle and allowed the oil marketing companies to import RON 92 petrol under the existing regulated environment.

The refineries, the ECC decided, will produce RON 90 gasoline. The Attock Refinery was exempted from the condition for two years and would continue producing the RON 87 till it reduces its surplus naptha production.

The pricing and import of RON 95/97 (HOBC) shall be fully deregulated for all refineries and oil marketing companies. The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority will monitor the selling price of RON 92 petrol as it does for the currently available RON 87 gasoline.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2016.

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Reader Comments (43)

  • imran
    Sep 13, 2016 - 10:41AM

    What he did since last three years to sort out the problem? Such corrupt people these are. Recommend

  • Adnan Siddiqui
    Sep 13, 2016 - 10:42AM

    Pakistan’s economy is in the doldrums. The Chinese will destroy whatever that is left and make Pakistan completely dependent on them – ala N.Korea. While the rest of the world is moving forward, Pakistan is going in reverse.Recommend

  • Kamal
    Sep 13, 2016 - 12:19PM

    This comparison with Somalia is the pits. True but absolutely intolerable. Now can we discuss the adulterated milk, low strength medicines by multinationals, drinking water quality, food quality controls, sub-quality motor parts, etc, etc, etc. Absolutely useless and corrupt Govts and bureaucracy.Recommend

  • Haroon
    Sep 13, 2016 - 12:57PM

    HOBC is considered a luxury product by the govt. because, according to them, it is only used in expensive high-end cars. The government imposes additional taxes on HOBC using that excuse when, in fact, it is the only international standard petrol available in the country!Recommend

  • Sodomite
    Sep 13, 2016 - 1:11PM

    Plus Pakistan should transition to Unleaded Petrol for all catalytic converter auto engines to reduce harmful emissions, improving air quality and people’s health. Recommend

  • Parvez
    Sep 13, 2016 - 1:37PM

    If one does the simple math on this….it may turn out to be another monster scam making the filthy rich even richer…….where is NAB ?Recommend

  • Haris
    Sep 13, 2016 - 1:41PM

    So this basically a good news with a title of bad news.Recommend

  • Jawad U Rahman
    Sep 13, 2016 - 2:27PM

    Good researched article. It may be worth mentioning that the Octane ratings used on pumps in Europe and USA is not RON, but it is something called PON – Posted Octane Number, which is average of RON and MON (Motor Octane Number). An 87 in RON is probably equivalent to 78 or 79 in PON in USA/EuropeRecommend

  • Khaney
    Sep 13, 2016 - 4:10PM

    Empty rhetoric by our leaders and the policy of strategic depth in Afghsnistan made Pakistan equal to Somalia. And things are not getting any better and it looks Pakistan would be more isolated if it doesn’t change it’s external policies. Recommend

  • Imran
    Sep 13, 2016 - 4:12PM

    We knew this for a long time…
    IS there any responsibility of Manufacturers at all or is it that customer has to foot every single bill?
    Not only they want to pass on the cost to the customer for a product which they should have bene providing all along and adjusted the cost against their the ‘cost of doing business’ .
    No wonder , these crooks call Pakistan as the best place to do business…..because customers are suckers and vulnerable here like Somalia !!!Recommend

  • numbersnumbers
    Sep 13, 2016 - 4:31PM

    Note that US and and Canada have used lead free 87 octane (measured as research plus method octane divided by two) as the lowest gasoline grade for the last thirty plus years, with premium grade at 91 or 93 octane!Recommend

  • Muldoon
    Sep 13, 2016 - 4:33PM

    More tripe and people falling for it.

    Most cars run on 87 octane fuel, and their engines are designed for compression at this ratio. Higher octane fuel is required for higher performance engines, which are a minority in cars in Pakistan.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if what is masquerading as 87 octane in Pakistan is actually 85 or lower. Recommend

  • Ragu
    Sep 13, 2016 - 4:39PM

    Thankyou PMLnRecommend

  • ajeet
    Sep 13, 2016 - 4:50PM

    Never thought Somalia is so underdeveloped.Recommend

  • Malik
    Sep 13, 2016 - 5:01PM

    Somalia?…that’s a bad comparison isn’t it?Recommend

  • Haroon
    Sep 13, 2016 - 5:41PM

    The fact that we all drive outdated cars is nothing to be proud of either!Recommend

  • SB
    Sep 13, 2016 - 6:23PM

    Thanks for not compaing with India.. –an orange can’t be compared an appleRecommend

  • Virkaul
    Sep 13, 2016 - 6:35PM

    It is important that process like reformer, Fluidised Catalytic Cracker, Visbreaker, Delayed Coker and Hudrocracker are employed to give higher RON gasoline and hydro desulphurisation, Alkykation and Isomerisation units to lower sulphur content and improve quality of gasoline.
    Flimsy reasons of RON are only to fool public.Recommend

  • Ali Rao
    Sep 13, 2016 - 6:59PM

    Aik vari Fair Shair.Recommend

    Sep 13, 2016 - 7:53PM

    Kashmir first. Everything else can wait.Recommend

  • Aftab
    Sep 13, 2016 - 8:03PM

    Another scam in the offing where consumer will be charged extra money for this gimmick Recommend

  • Ajeet
    Sep 13, 2016 - 8:06PM

    Thank you Jinnah for Pakistan. Recommend

  • Aijaz
    Sep 13, 2016 - 9:49PM

    I can feel your pain, even after 69 years the pain is still there, get over it.Recommend

  • Bol
    Sep 13, 2016 - 9:55PM

    Stay away, it has nothing to do with you. But you won’t because you can’t survive without us.@Ajeet:Recommend

  • Rahul
    Sep 13, 2016 - 9:59PM

    “Thank you Jinnah for Pakistan.”

    LOL I was about to comment the same thing Recommend

  • Aijaz
    Sep 13, 2016 - 10:24PM

    You are very correct in saying that, they seems like parasite.Recommend

  • Lahul
    Sep 13, 2016 - 11:15PM

    Feathers of the same stock@Rahul: Recommend

  • bechari-awam
    Sep 13, 2016 - 11:21PM

    I have lived in Canada and now living in USA and RON87, though lead free as claimed, is what we use in our cars. RON89 or 92 are generally for luxury cars especially german make. Unless 87 in Pakistan is not what it means, I don’t see any issue with it. Recommend

  • ahsan
    Sep 13, 2016 - 11:43PM

    In USA, we have different grades. I use 87 octane in my 2006 Honda pilot and never have an issue. on my other cars the manufacturer recommends 92 octane and that is what I use. Unless it is recommended by the manufacturer you do not need high octane in your car.Recommend

  • Aijaz
    Sep 13, 2016 - 11:56PM

    The article is misleading; follow the link below to see what Toyota is recommending for its vehicles.

  • shiraz
    Sep 14, 2016 - 1:41AM

    Nawaz is now among Arab sheikhs.he will win next election by virtue of wealth fr low oil and low prices.Recommend

  • Allaisa
    Sep 14, 2016 - 2:07AM

    @bechari-awam: You are mixing up RON87 with Octane 87 which is sold in the USA and I take it in Canada too. In the USA it is actually called Anti Knock Index or (R+M)/2. Ron 87 probably translates to around AKI 80 or so. We do no use that in USA. True higher (R+M)/2 is not needed in normal cars. Recommend

  • Allaisa
    Sep 14, 2016 - 2:08AM

    @Muldoon: He is not talking of Octane 87 or (R+M)/2 but RON 87 which is very different. Recommend

  • numbersnumbers
    Sep 14, 2016 - 3:29AM

    The cure for Pakistani motorists is for the state to require the posting of gasolines anti-knock index (AKI) which is a calculation as follows: AKI = ((RON + MOD) / 2)! Today’s automobiles rely on the Anti-Knock index of fuel octane to run properly, with the world minimum around 87 AKI. Gasoline with a RON of 87 actually has an AKI of around 80, which is why people have problems! For more detailed information, go to Wikipedia and search for “Octane Rating”! Recommend

  • I. Khan
    Sep 14, 2016 - 4:52AM

    @numbersnumbers: I wonder why drivers have problems in Pakistan using 87 octane in their cars. I am using 87 Octane gasoline for my Lexus car for years in Canada and I do not have any problems.Recommend

  • FOP
    Sep 14, 2016 - 5:11AM

    i live in US, on the east coast most commonly used fuel grade is 87, in higher altitude regions such as Colorado Wyoming etc. most commonly used fuel is 85 Octane, higher Octane rated fuel is recommended in rare cases, even in most premium cars 85/87 is used.Recommend

  • Naeem Yahya Mir
    Sep 14, 2016 - 5:48AM

    There seems to be confusion in what RON means in Pakistan and other places. To clarify RON ( Research Octane number ) is reported in Pakistan while in North America mean of RON and MON (Motor Octane Number)is reported. As a rule of thumb there is 10 number difference in RON and MON , so if RON is 92 MON will be 82 of the fuel.. In America when they display regular 87 grade {(92+82)/2} then it means the RON of Fuel is 92 while the Pakistani Fuel 87 RON will be graded as 82 Octane in America {(87+77)/2}. From that you know why a car will run smooth in America with 87 grade and not in Pakistan Recommend

  • Shaukat ali
    Sep 14, 2016 - 6:39AM

    A news item similar to this was published last year and I tried to explain how they are passing on wrong information to the public.
    1. Vast majority of cars in usa use only 87 petrol. Including 80 percent of brand new cars. Only high end luxury cars from Europe have a requirement to use 91+ octane fuel like Audi, porsche, Ferrari, bmw, Mercedes etc
    2. What fuel to use is specified by auto makers and their engines are tuned to burn only the specified fuel optimally. You cannot just put high octane fuel in brand new Honda accord and hope it will perform better. It will cause engine problems. Similarly a car requiring high octane, you can’t put 87 octane fuel to save money. The engine will cause knocking sound.
    3. Usa is the world’s largest user of petrol by a huge margin and most of their cars burn 87 octane fuel. They have less pollution from auto emissions in the whole world after European countries.
    4. Countries like India China and Pakistan have dangerously unhealthy levels of auto emissions because no strict standard for yearly smog check and inspection control exists, and you see twenty year old cars literally throwing black smoke in the air. That can’t be blamed on 87 octane fuel but on lack of servicing off cars buses and trucks.
    5. Some body claiming to be Minster of petroleum should know that.Recommend

  • Jawad U Rahman
    Sep 14, 2016 - 8:33AM

    In your resplendent India, do not drive today in a Tamil Nadu number plate in Bengaluru. You will not survive to write such snide comments. Go fix your house first.Recommend

  • Mango Man
    Sep 14, 2016 - 11:31AM

    First, Have the fuel tested in a good lab. You ay be surprised with the findings! These politicians hardly know what they are talking most of the time. 87 RON is the default fuel for most vehicles where compression ratio is below 10.5:1 in a petrol engine, world over. IMHO, i think he must be talking about the lead content. The RON figure is a measure of the anti-knocking agent in the fuel. If a regular car engine is creating a knocking sound at higher gear, it implies that the RON count is even lower. Only a through test will tell. Recommend

  • Gagandeep Singh sidhu
    Sep 14, 2016 - 11:47AM

    Even in India we use 87 RON petrol without any problem. All high end cars like Mercedes BMW Honda run on it without any problem. I think your minister is having some other agenda.Recommend

  • Unknown
    Sep 15, 2016 - 3:20PM


    Did they compare Somalia with India? Recommend

  • over burdened citizen
    Sep 16, 2016 - 10:30PM

    Finally they have found a way to increase fuel prices…Hats off to these filthy blood suckers…Recommend

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