/ 6 May 2008

Replacing petrol pumps to take ‘several months’

The South African Petroleum Industry Association (Sapia) said the replacement of older petrol pumps, which are unable to reflect a price of more than R9,99, would take several months.

Roughly 18 500 petrol pumps, or about 30% of all South Africa’s pumps, need to be replaced.

These pumps do not have digital readings and were designed to show only three digits on their screens, and with the price of petrol threatening to rise above R10 a litre, there is an urgent need to replace the older pumps.

The problem was reportedly picked up last month when the diesel price rose to above the R10 a litre mark in some areas.

Sapia said on Monday that it had been in discussion with the Department of Minerals and Energy regarding the pump pricing problem.

“[The department] has supported an interim proposal for these pumps to divide the reflected pump price by ten, and then multiply the total amount of the transaction by ten to obtain the amount to be paid by the customer,” Sapia said.

This means if the price is R10,50 per litre, the pump would read R1,05, which would then have to be multiplied by 10.

While this is likely to be a massive headache for motorists and petrol attendants alike, this interim solution is only applicable to diesel for now.

From midnight on Tuesday the wholesale price of diesel will increase by 71 cents a litre (c/l), bringing the price of diesel in inland areas to R10,90 a litre and R9,95 a litre at the coast.

Petrol is also hovering close to the R10 mark after last week’s announcement of a 55c/l price increase for all grades of petrol.

As a result of the increases, the price of petrol inland goes up to R9,46 a litre while the coastal price will be R9,22 a litre.

“The price of petrol is not at this price as yet, but a similar problem will arise on certain pumps if this does happen, and a similar interim solution will need to be applied at that time,” said Sapia.

The association said oil companies were in the process of correcting the problem throughout their networks, but warned that since the process required the replacement of a vast number of older pumps “it will be several months until all pumps are capable of reflecting the price properly”.

Peter Morgan, director of the Fuel Retailers Association, told Beeld that while this is “a huge inconvenience for motorists and petrol stations”, there were simply not enough technicians to replace the pumps in such a short time.

“Oil companies must replace the pumps themselves because it is their own property, and this can take up to four months,” he said. — I-Net Bridge