China’s Biggest Gas Company Watering Down Its Fuel

February 2, 2014 Updated: February 2, 2014

China Central Television (CCTV) investigated recent speculations that China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) was putting water in its diesel fuel and found fuel with water content 40 times higher than the acceptable standard.

Gao Zhanjun, a resident of Shangzhi City, in Heilongjiang province said his semi-trailer truck broke down twice after filling the gas tank with number zero grade gas from a CNPC gas station in Weihe Town last October. Gao drove 81 miles before his truck first broke down. A mechanic replaced the fuel injectors.

After going another 63 miles, it broke down a second time. A mechanic replaced the new fuel injectors, but the truck continued to malfunction.

By the time the mechanic realized there was water in the gas, Gao had already spent about 26,000 yuan ($4,300) in gas and repairs. Approximately 1.2 gallons of water was extracted from the gas.

Shangzhi City Industrial and Commercial Bureau (SCICB) agreed to help Gao prove his case, but the station told them there was no more number zero gas to test. The staff tested number 20 grade gas instead.

While waiting for the test result, Gao visited the Shangzhi branch of CNPC seeking reimbursement. After speaking to four different officials, each offering a different amount of money, the highest offer was only 8,000 yuan ($1,322), which Gao refused to accept.

Two months later, test results showed that the number 20 gas sample had 0.2 percent water, 40 times the national standard of .005 percent.

Gao told a CCTV reporter that five of his friends experienced the same problems after getting gas at the Weihe Town gas station.

Wang Xukun, the standing vice president of the Heilongjiang Research Association of Law on the Protection of Consumer Rights and Interests, posted on his microblog that the Weihe Town gas station provides “fuel of very inferior quality.”

“There is water in diesel fuel 40 times higher than the standard level! Would you pay for this kind of diesel fuel?”

Another netizen commented: “It’s quite common for gas stations in China to add water in fuel; it’s just a matter of how much water they add. Car owners have already accepted this fact.”

“It’s normal to have water content in fuel a little bit higher than the standard, since water content can be influenced by many factors during transport, storage and tank washing. But it’s unbelievable for the content to be 40 times higher than the standard.”

Ultimately, Gao could not get compensation from CNPC because the wrong gas was tested.

The head of the consumer protection unit at SCICB believes the test result clearly proves that CNPC gas is below standard, but company officials refused to compensate Gao fully.

The CCTV reporter sought an interview with CNPC officials, but staff said they were not available. An official of the company later called and said, “This incident has a negative influence on the company’s reputation; I hope you will not report it.”

CNPC had 2 weeks to request a re-test of the gas sample, but instead they denied any wrongdoing.