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show details 6/10/09

Failure of Authentix marker system caused by human corruption, not inefficiency of doping agent

June 10: 8It appears that the petroleum ministry's decision to discontinue the use of the marker system developed by UK-based Authentix for detection of SKO adulteration in MS and HSD was taken on account of the ease with which the marker was "launderable under lab conditions", through human tampering, rather than any actual failing of the marker itself. This was observation was made a presentation in the petroleum ministry. At the time when the marker was being selected, the catch rate with the Authentix system -- at 0.51% -- was found better during field trials than the detection rate with traditional methods, which was just 0.05%.
8During the period from February, 2007, to March, 2008, for example, a total of 116,783 inspections were carried out at ROs using the marker system. Adulteration was detected in only 204 ROs. Furthermore, there were instances -- 122 cases -- where retail outlets refused to permit marker audits. The marker system also found 242 cases of adulteration in tankers ferrying petrol and diesel. This implied that the strike rate using the marker system was around 0.51%, whereas through using conventional methods, the industry strike rate during inspections of 182,524 ROs was a mere 61 cases, or just 0.05% in 2007-08. But though the strike rate was higher using the marker system, it was still nowhere near the level of adulteration estimated by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) in its landmark study, which said that 36.8% of kerosene supply is diverted for adulteration purposes.
8So what went wrong? The evidence seems to indicate that adulteration of MS and HSD by unscrupulous elements continued largely unchecked during the two years in which the Authentix marker system was used, thanks to the adulterators being hand in glove with those responsible for checking adulteration. Though the marker manufacturer made the point that adulteration did indeed come down drastically after the introduction of the marker on account of fear of being caught, the differential between the recorded cases and NCAER data was too large to be explained by this argument alone. This fact was brought to the notice of the petroleum ministry at the time when a review of the continuation of the marker system was under consideration. Accordingly, the marker was discontinued with effect from January 1, 2009, and the OMCs were directed to find a more efficient marker system through a global Expression of Interest. This process is still underway and it is learned that three suitable candidates have been short-listed for carrying out field trials. (Click on Details for more information)


Kerosene Marker Project: Is the government ignoring environment and health hazards?

June 3: 8The government's attempt to reintroduce the Kerosene Marker Project (KMP) is, again, shrouded in controversy, as doubts have emerged over the acceptability of the type of technology expected to be employed to detect the presence of kerosene in petrol and diesel. It has been claimed that the oil marketing companies (OMCs) are keen on deploying X-ray fluorescence spectrograph (XRF) to this end, markedly an unproven methodology. In fact, it is claimed, that this technology has been sidelined by various countries, including the USA, as it necessitates the addition of halogenated compounds in the fuel, thereby posing a great risk to health and environment. XRF technology is also said to be expensive, since it involves the use of activated charcoal, which can only be removed through a blending plant. The cost-benefit ration of this methodology, thus, does not appear to be favorable.
Such concerns have been voiced since January 2009, when the government invited global Expression of Interest (EOI) for selecting an efficient marker system. A technical committee was formed, and various companies were invited to showcase their respective technologies before the committee. Of all the technologies showcased, apparently, only the XRF technology was deemed acceptable to the committee. Notably, a total of six companies are eying the contract for supply of marker system. These are: Nandan Petroleum, which is representing GFI, Kematech-Anarchem, Johnson Mathey, Energenics, Authentix and SGS-implementation. The technical bids for the contract are scheduled to be opened on June 4, 2009. (Click on Reports for more information) By Neeraj Dhankher

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