FUELLING 101: PROVEN WAYS TO AVOID FUEL STATIONS’ RIP-OFF!

Nigeria is the largest exporter of crude-oil in Africa and yet the local Petroleum scene is ridden by inefficiencies and poor regulating which have not only led to dependence on imported refined fuel, but has made the business climate unattractive for prospective investors to tap into areas other than the key exploration of crude-oil. One backlash of the evident poor regulatory framework generally in the industry and specifically in the downstream sector is a situation where petroleum marketers rip off unsuspecting customers by adopting unscrupulous methods to increase their profit margin per litre of fuel sold.

In this article, we will identify a few ways to spot these defaulting fuel stations, learn about some of their tricks and how to out-smart them. So the tips below can be seen as a quick guide:

The Jerry-can ‘Volume’ test: actually, the ‘jerry-can’ test is less of a standard procedure and more of a personal ad-hoc test which you can chose to perform in several ways-but there are underlying guiding considerations. The first thing you need of course is a jerry can, feel free to pick any size (but its however advisable to use smaller sizes that fall within the 4-25liters range due to better precision and lower cost of experimenting), then proceed to have your jerry-can filled up at your first subject fuel station (insist on them filling it up and not extracting their imposed fines; you can promise to separately pay the ‘fine’ in addition to the eventual cost of fuel). The main trick here is to notice the amount (Naira) it takes for that dispensed quantity of fuel. You can then proceed further to check other filling stations (around the same time due to the likelihood of your jerry-can expanding overtime), then compare the prices before you decide on which filling station that should be ranked your first choice.

This method isn’t fool-proof and has a few flaws like not being a dependable method in uncovering poor fuel quality.

Observation: This method is however not feasible for those with bad car maintenance habits, as some fuel station’s fuel might not necessarily sell fuel which is poorly metered on delivery; but the real issue with their fuel might be unusual octane rating(which is hardly ever stated), quick burn-off rate or low level of purity. Petrol (PMS) for instance, is one very volatile fuel, but due to reasons like quality of refining (type of additives) or storage/transportation, they might be extra-volatile, hence causing such to burn more quickly. So being very observant behind the wheel is the surest way to ascertain fuel quality and the best fuel quality for your engine type.

Bad fuel quality in continuous use can even affect vehicle performance and foul fuel lines-like specifically in the case of diesel engines. Hence, stay sensitive and cautious to notice sudden increased fuel consumption or certain driving anomalies which might be a consequence of using a certain quality fuel.

Forget the umbrella Brands, managers differ! : Most NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation) directly managed mega-stations spread across the Nation in most states hold very good records when it comes to good fuel quality and proper metering. But no matter how convincing an NNPC logo at a filling station might be, it might proof wise to double-check the standard due to the human factor and tendency for stations managers to cheat!.

The same applies to other downstream fuel marketers; even the well established ones, be sure the managers align with the ideals of the brands they represent. Uncovering cheating managers might even help these organizations run their firms better and do business the right way. You can contribute in this forum to expose cheating fuel stations and help sanitize the downstream sector in your own way.

Commercial vehicles/motorcycles : These individuals are on the road for the money, they might not necessarily maintain their cars properly to avoid high mpgs per trip but that doesn’t mean they are not cautious of cutting fuelling cost by ensuring they buy good quality and well metered fuel.

So they rely on ‘word of mouth’ amongst them about the refilling stations to avoid and without a doubt, any smart car-owner can leverage on the availability of this information, but here are the ground rules: For interstate routes, the trusted stations are those with highest influx of interstate buses; whilst for the best inner city stations observe where the cabs go to and the commercial motorcycles flock to. The major twist here is that during scarcity periods, this particular trick might not apply.

Run away from old pumps: analog fuel pumps are ‘no go’ zones and the same applies to old pumps which might be reflective of the determination of the management to rip off car owners or their poor customer service provision. Either way, fuel pumps are complex units that combine mechanical and electrical functions which might lose calibration, measurement precision and basically efficiency over time like every other aged machine.

DPR Raids not a good sign:Any station successively sealed by DPR (Department of Petroleum Resources) is definitely a confirmed cheater; and you know one thing they say about cheaters? They most likely go back to their old ways; however that isn’t always the case. But if a station gets sealed-off by DPR and after the station re-opens you don’t seem to spot certain changes, it’s advisable you stay off such; common sense should tell you that.

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what a brillant expose'. keep it up!

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