Pirate gasoline back at the pumps


By Sabrina Lorenzi, Jornal do Brasil - 30/03/2005

Inspection, flagrant with the right to a fine, interdiction of the establishment and then again to inspect, fine and catch… the same adulterated fuel. Agents from the National Petroleum Agency (ANP) and the Federal Police are investigating the return of derivatives that are said to be illegal at the pumps. Supported by law 9847 since 1999, companies in the sector may be forging the destruction or reprocessing of derivatives, redistributing them in the market even after they are caught.

- The biggest flaw in the law is that we cannot give immediate loss to the seized product. This is only after an administrative procedure that takes 120 to 150 days - reveals the superintendent of Inspection and Supply of the ANP, Jefferson Paranhos Santos. The time is enough for the regulator to lose sight of the product.

The agency is preparing a proposal to change the legislation in order to expedite the confiscation of the adulterated products found by the police. Under current rules, the ANP cannot apprehend fuels from resellers that prove the origin of the product, but rather determine that the derivative be reprocessed so that it can be returned to the market within the appropriate specifications. As long as the fuel is not returned for “recycling”, the station remains closed. This encourages fuel to go to dealers. These, in turn, can end the derivatives, reuse them or keep them without the ANP being able to ascertain this whereabouts.

- In theory the fuel should not be returning, but what happens many times is that the owner of the station informs us that he is going to reprocess the product at company X. We arrived at company X, she says she has already reprocessed or destroyed it. We are investigating mainly who says that he destroyed the product, because that is unacceptable, to destroy the product when it could be reprocessed - complete. Only if the dealer is unable to readjust the fuel to specifications, the agency can determine the destruction of the product.

One of the most evident cases of the return of adulterated fuels, according to the regulator, is the declaration of a company that said it burned 15 thousand liters of gasoline.

- It's difficult, complicated. How did you burn it all up? And the environmental issue? About three companies have often said that they destroy fuel without proving it - completes Santos, a newcomer to the position.

The ANP is preparing the proposal, which should be ready in about 30 days. Then, it goes to the public hearing and to the National Congress, in order to modify law 9847, which deals with penalties on the fuel sector.

Current rules allow non-legal fuel to be kept intact for up to six months, enough time for resellers to return their products to the correct specifications.

- All we can do is disturb the suspects. When we realize that it may be a company that is unable to reprocess the product or that it is under suspicion, we do not authorize - he says. In this case, the gas station is obliged to look for another company to reuse the cargo.

The practically vain action of the inspectors - who identify tampering but cannot apprehend the irregular material - takes place at a time when the ANP is bitterly understaffed to combat irregularities. Between January and February this year, 1.344 actions were carried out, compared to 3.041, in the first two months of 2004.