Fuel stations report shortages

2011-11-02 00:00

THE petroleum company, Engen, has denied allegations that fuel shortages in parts of KwaZulu-Natal in the past three weeks were due to their Merebank refinery in Durban catching fire last month.

Engen’s spokesperson Tania Landsberg said their refinery had a small fire that was brought under control within 48 minutes.

She said this happened just three days before a planned maintenance shutdown.

“None of these elements have been responsible for any fuel shortage. To date we have not been informed of any of our sites going dry, but we will continue to monitor the situation,” Landsberg insisted.

The contractors brought on board to help with our maintenance programme went on strike yesterday after issues with payments, she said.

“This is a contractor issue [they are being paid by Engen] and workers should contact them as their first point of call if they encounter any problems. We are bringing pressure to bear to ensure the situation is remedied as soon as possible,” she added.

Several filling stations in the city say their supplies are low.

The manager of Caltex Bird Sanctuary, Roger Munsamy said he’s had very low volumes of petrol but “luckily the truck came in time” before they ran completely dry.

Munsamy orders about 30 000 to 40 000 litres of fuel stock every day, but he said lately he has been receiving less.

“Now I only get about 18 000 to 24 000 litres because I think they are trying to make sure that everyone gets an equal amount of petrol,” he added.

Dalmain Strydom, manager at Greenwood Service Centre, said he does not know whether there is a shortage or an inability to deliver in time.

Strydom’s garage went dry on Sunday morning for two hours.

“It’s really hard to explain the situation,” he said.

Premier Service Station said they ran short of supplies on Sunday.

“We lost a bit of turnover, but we haven’t had any major problems,” the manager, who wanted to remain unnamed, told The Witness.

He speculated that the scarcity could have been caused by the refinery that was closed for maintenance.

Shell South Africa communication manager Elton Fortuin said their service stations are experiencing higher fuel sales in the Pietermaritzburg area, but this is normal before a price increase, despite other garages in the city claiming they went dry.

The retail price of all grades of petrol will rise by 23 cents a litre from today.

Shell said their sites have sufficient product to meet demand.

However, they could experience intermittent product stock-outs at some retail sites, said Fortuin.

Caltex was not available for comment.

• gabisile.ngcobo@witness.co.za

KZN MEC for Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development Lydia Johnson served the Engen Petroleum Refinery at Merebank in Durban with a letter of intent to issue a directive yesterday.

This is with regards to frequent pollution incidents that compromise public health and environmental integrity.

A press release said that the MEC’s action had also been prompted by the reaction of communities in the area to the recent fire incident last month, when a flange crude oil unit was suspected to have failed.

The department has given Engen 15 working days to submit a full report of the incident and to present a plan of action detailing a precautionary approach.

Johnson urged the company to “comply with the constitutional obligation of ensuring a healthy environment”.

Engen’s spokesperson, Tania Landsberg said, “We did receive a letter this [yesterday] morning and we are looking at the requests that have been tabled and will be in a position to respond once we have the opportunity to examine them.”

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