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Fuel firms reap big gains   2012-05-19 - SGT

Local fuel traders are gaining handsome profits, at up to VND1,000 per liter of gasoline sold, as global fuel prices have kept falling.

Vietnam National Petroleum Group (Petrolimex) said on its website that the global crude oil price in the first half of this month maintained the longest falling streak since late 2009. The average WTI oil price was US$96.78 per barrel, down US$4.19 against the same period of last month, while Brent oil lost US$8.4 to US$113.91.

Therefore, a barrel of A92 gasoline, kerosene and DO 0.05S oil on the Singapore market slid to US$122.25, US$127.07 and US$128.89 respectively.

Fuel prices in the country are staying high compared to those in February, at VND20,800 per liter of A92 gasoline, VND21,400 per liter of diesel oil and VND20,800 per liter of kerosene.

A representative of an oil and gas company told the Daily that his firm earns over VND1,000 per liter of gasoline given daily imports and VND500-700 given the average global petrol prices in the last 30 days.

However, fuel consumption has slowed down in recent times as many enterprises have stopped production while vessels are staying ashore due to bad weather. So local traders are earning around VND400 from a liter of gasoline if stockpile is included.

According to the General Department of Customs, fuel imports between January 1 and April 15 plunged sharply against last year.

The nation as of the middle of April had imported over 661,000 tons of gasoline worth US$742 million, down by 220,000 tons year-on-year. Diesel oil imports also dropped by 610,000 tons to over 1.1 million tons worth over US$1.1 billion.

In a related development, the Ministry of Science and Technology is weighing banning A83 gasoline from the market early next year as it is believed to have caused a spate of vehicle fires over the past few years, said the HCMC Department of Science and Technology.

There is a high possibility that A83 with high concentrations of methanol and ethanol causes vehicle fires, Phan Minh Tan, director of the department, and experts from the HCMC University of Technology (HCMUT) said at a press conference in the city on Thursday.

“A83 can increase heat to a level which can spark fires. Especially, low quality petrol containing large volumes of methanol and ethanol can damage fuel tubes and lead to fuel leaks,” Tan explained.

Using the low-grade A83 gasoline is no longer appropriate for all kinds of engine, Tan noted, adding petrol traders had been found to mix this gasoline with methanol to turn out the high-octane A92 petrol.

According to Tan, inspections last year showed 35 out of a combined 154 samples of gasoline collected from local petrol stations contained methanol.

Doctor Huynh Quyen, director of the Refinery and Petrochemicals Technology Research Center of HCMUT, said local fuel traders might have mixed methanol and ethanol with gasoline to make bigger gains.

Quyen quoted statistics collected by customs agencies as saying that methanol imports into Vietnam have sharply risen in recent years, with 90,300 tons in 2010, 80,500 tons in 2011 versus 52,000 tons in 2008 and around 66,000 tons in 2009.

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