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The days of leaded fuel are numbered

Published Nov 25, 2005


By Rivonia Naidu

Africa finally joins the rest of the world in phasing out 97 leaded octane petrol. From January 1, leaded fuel will no longer be available and car owners will have to feed their engines "cleaner fuels" such 95 unleaded octane petrol or a lead replacement fuel.

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Spokesman for the Automobile Association, Gary Ronald, explained what is lead replacement fuel and why it is better and safer than leaded petrol.

"The lead in leaded fuel lubricates the valve system in an engine and makes the car run smoothly. However, lead is a harmful toxin.

"The lead replacement fuel is less harmful to the environment and contains one of three metals that are used in place of lead.

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"These metals are manganese, potassium and phosphorous," he said.

Ronald said: "These metals serve the same purpose that leaded fuel serves as they lubricate the valve seat in the engine."

He said that as of January, Durban motorists will only be able to use 93 and 95 unleaded octane petrol or the lead replacement fuel.

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"As of 2006, petrol stations will have green and red nozzles, the green nozzle will be for unleaded petrol and the red nozzle will be for lead replacement fuel.

"The 93 and 95 unleaded octane petrol won't make a big difference in most cars engine's performance. However, the lower octane petrol might result in some cars having their ignition timing adjusted to optimise the car's performance," he said.

Ronald said that vehicle manufactures, together with the Automobile Association and fuel companies, had drawn up a database to assist the public with the usage of fuel.

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"A list of vehicles and the models will be available at garages and dealerships as soon as possible to assist motorists when choosing fuel for their cars."

However, the list is already available at

Department of minerals and energy spokesperson Yvonne Mfolo said that Africa was the last continent in the world to adjust their fuel standards to that of international fuel specifications and vehicle technology requirements.

She said that if motorists needed to adjust the ignition timing on their engines, it would be done free of charge.

"Government has negotiated with service stations around the country to provide this service free of charge," she said.

Mfolo said that the elimination of leaded fuel served an important purpose, especially in Africa.

"Leaded fuel is very damaging to the environment, but more than that, it affects a person's health. It affects malnourished children and can severely damage the brain or cause cancer," she said.

She said that having cleaner fuels would help improve a healthier environment in South Africa.

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