AMTEL took gasoline and diesel samples from Estonian service stations in November last year and sent them to Belgium for analysis. Twelve of the 15 service stations sold gasoline 95 with lower octane parameters than indicated on their certificates and in most cases it contained too much unwashed gum.
The high rate of unwashed gum may damage engines, according to Jaak Uudla, chairman of the board at AMTEL. "A lower octane rate will damage a car in the long run, but it doesn't pose an immediate serious threat to the engine. The car takes more fuel and is less powerful," said Uudla. However, a higher level of unwashed gum in the fuel is a problem for the engine.
He said that service stations are allowed to sell gasoline with a higher octane rate than indicated in their certificates, but lower parameters may be a threat to cars.
The stations inspected included Neste, Statoil, Uno X, Shell, Lukoil, Alexela Oil, Truveks, Grekond, Petkam and Milistoil. The only gasoline that met the requirements was sold at Lukoil.
Statoil's new Ultima gasoline 95, which came on the market in December, meets the European norms although filling stations don't have a euro sign next to it.
Uudla suggested using big chain stations because big and well-known service stations didn't have problems with unwashed gum and their diesel parameters were better.
Epp Kiviaed, head of Statoil Eesti, said that the octane parameters of most of the gasoline tested were in the internationally allowable gap. She said that the internationally accepted error margin was 0.9 units. "Statoil was within the gap," said Kiviaed. She said that their Ultima gasoline 95 corresponded to the European norms and was of a very good quality. "We considered the quality more important than the euro sign, but if they think it is important, we will add the sign next to the trademark," said Kiviaed.
Andres Kivistik, head of Hydro Texaco Eesti, whose trademark is Uno X, said that they unknowingly sold gasoline 95 with a lower octane rate, because the local laboratories had given them the certificate. "We are looking for possibilities to test our fuel abroad," said Kivistik. The oiling characteristics of Uno X diesel is good because the station adds supplementary substances to diesel that improves oiling, said Kivistik.
The quality of the diesel tested was almost tolerable in all the stations. The only problem half of the samples had was their oiling characteristics, which are very important for the car's feeders.
Uudla said that the union is worried about the poor quality of fuel being sold in Estonia because there are 40,000 new cars in the country. According to the union's estimates, more than 130 million kroons ($7.4 million) are annually spent on repairing damages caused by poor-quality fuel.
"Car companies may refuse to compensate for losses claiming that there is bad fuel in Estonia," said Uudla. "The car owner may unknowingly cause expenses when the warranty period is over.
"Older cars do not require quality fuel. We do not have anything against the poor quality of fuel, but we ask for the availability of quality fuel on the market."
An association of car salesmen and scientists, Kutuse Umarlaud, believes that the variety of gasoline and diesel available is the cause of the problems on the fuel market. There are 16 kinds of gasoline and four types of diesel available on the Estonian market. Kutuse Umarlaud believes that Estonia should determine four types of gasoline and one diesel in order to control the market.
The Estonian Oil Association agrees that the quality of fuel sold in Estonia is questionable but is disappointed in the way AMTEL represents its data in the media without first consulting the association.
The oil association believes that the market is not ready for the transition to European norms as long as only 6 percent of the cars are less than 3 years old and require European fuel.
Kaljo Aamer, councilor at the oil association, said that AMTEL had not shown him the analyses and he would see the report only on March 20 when the union presents it to Mihkel Parnoja, the minister of economics.
"We have problems with poor quality fuel, but I do not believe that all the fuel can be called waste water," said Aamer.
Uudla said that AMTEL would give the ministry its proposals on how the state should adjust its control over the market and provide quality fuel in every station.