Tuesday, March 06, 2007

UK - Tesco apologise for sub-standard fuel

Fuel is beginning to be return to supermarket forecourts

Tesco and Morrisons have promised to pay customers compensation for damage incurred to their vehicles after filling them with sub-standard fuel. Last week reports began to emerge which seemed to indicate that hundreds of motorists had suffered problems with their cars after filling up at supermarket petrol stations in the south-east of England. But as media organisations reported on the issue, it soon became clear that thousands of motorists had been affected. Problems also appeared to have spread beyond the south-east with motorists as far north as the Midlands saying their cars had suffered problems after filling up with supermarket fuel. The main focus was Tesco and Morrisons petrol stations, though a few other independent retailers were also singled out. All denied there was any contamination with their fuel, but late Friday government inspectors in Cambridgeshire found the first sign of contamination. At around 16:00 GMT the news broke that Silicon had been found in the fuel of a number of cars damaged by the problem fuel. This was the first major clue in identifying where the contaminant had entered the supply chain. Silicon is normally added to diesel as an anti-foaming agent, but its presence in unleaded petrol was creating chaos as thousand of motorists found themselves at a standstill. By Saturday an oil depot in Essex had been identified as the source of the contaminated petrol. The companies based there insisted that the reason the fuel had reached filling stations with the Silicon contaminant was that there was no routine test for the substance. Harvest Energy admitted that four tanks at the Vopak fuel distribution depot had been contaminated by the substance. The fuel had then been supplied by Greenergy to Tesco and Morrisons supermarket forecourts. Throughout the weekend fuel tankers continued to flow in and out of the oil depot. Meanwhile motorist sat in limbo wondering if they would get compensation for their damaged vehicles. Sunday saw many supermarket forecourts emptying their tanks “as a precaution”. In full page advertisements taken out in several national newspapers, Tesco said “It’s back to normal and we’re sorry”. But it was far from normal for many motorists. There are reports of panic buying as many forecourts at Morrisons and other supermarkets still remain empty. Other companies were accused of profiteering from the crisis as prices rose at some petrol stations brought on by the fuel shortage. As to how the Silicon entered the fuel tanks at Vopak is still unclear, but Harvest Energy say they have ruled out sabotage [BBC].

No comments: