Saturday, 27 August 2011 00:00
from the Press... - Jakarta Globe
Fuel Additive Risks Health And Environment: NGO
Fidelis E. Satriastanti | August 27, 2011
An environmental group has threatened to file a lawsuit against state-run oil and gas firm Pertamina over its reported plan to use toxic chemical as an additive in its fuels.
The Committee Against Leaded Gasoline (KPPB) was reacting to the recent announcement of a tender from Pertamina — published in a national newspaper on Aug. 15 — to supply methyl tertiary-butyl ether.
MTBE is an oxygenate used to enhance a fuel’s octane level, but there is evidence it poses risks to the environment and to public health. The KPPB cited research from 2007 by the European Ramazzini Foundation that found that MTBE was carcinogenic and a cause of leukemia, particularly in women.
The group said the use of the substance would violate the Law on the Environment.
KPPB coordinator Ahmad Safruddin said MTBE could be emitted in large volumes from motorcycles with two-stroke engines, which are popular in Indonesia. Compared to a four-stroke version, a two-stroke engine emits more pollution.
He also said that gas stations across the country often experienced leakages that could increase the risk of MTBE contamination in groundwater.
“There has never been any environmental risk assessment for MTBE use in this country,” Ahmad said. “So we sent our objection letter to the head of Pertamina because it will impact public health and environment.”
The activist highlighted that MTBE had been banned in California and the Philippines for use as an octane enhancer since 1998 after cases of groundwater pollution that followed leaks at gas stations.
Mochamad Harun, a Pertamina spokesman, said the company had never used MTBE for its fuel. He added that the additive was being sought for experimental activities.
“We are using a high-octane mogas component for our fuels. However, MTBE is not banned for use. It is allowed by the director general of minerals and gas,” Mochamad said. “We don’t make our own specifications, it depends on the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry. So we’re not violating any regulations.
“However, we will immediately answer their letter and will consider their objections.”
Harun said Pertamina was using MTBE for small pilot projects targeted at reducing the country’s dependence on imported fuel, which has a higher octane level.
“Consumption of Premium [subsidized gasoline] reached its peak these last few months, the highest in our history,” the spokesman said. “Meanwhile, we haven’t built any new oil refineries for the past 15 years, which forces us to import more oil.”
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