Sales of bio-fuel have gone smoothly in the central province of Quang Ngai, the first locality in Vietnam to fully phase out the most common fuel type with E5.
The bio-fuel is 5 percent ethanol, made from cassava, and has been sold, since August 2010, at a small number of filling stations in 34 cities and provinces, including Hanoi, Hai Phong, Da Nang, Hue, Ho Chi Minh City, and Can Tho.
On September 1, the central province of Quang Ngai became the first in the country to fully replace the popular 92-octane gasoline (A92) with E5.
The province, which is home to the country’s sole petroleum refinery and one of the three ethanol production plants, has been praised by energy officials for initiating the widespread sale of E5 three months before a national deadline.
A government plan requires major cities like Hanoi, Hai Phong, Danang, Can Tho, Ho Chi Minh City, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, and Quang Ngai to completely switch from A92-RON to E5 starting this December.
A nationwide deadline for the E5 switch is set for December of next year.
All 150 filling stations in Quang Ngai (mostly PV Oil or Petrolimex) now exclusively sell E5.
Tuoi Tre reporters found that many stations in the province said 60 percent of their customers buy E5 and the rest chose 95-octane (A95) petrol.
Nguyen Thanh Tung, a local, said he's used the bio-fuel for a week and his motorbike has run just like it did on 92 or 95-octane gasoline.
Another local, Ho Nguyen Thuy, said she felt safe so far.
Nguyen Huu Ho, director of Petrolimex Quang Ngai, confirmed that E5 has accounted for more than 60 percent of sales at his stations, which he said is “rather surprising” given the early stage of its introduction.
Retailers reported their top customers are taxi drivers and people familiar with E5.
Looking for demand
Quang Ngai is one of the three places, besides Phu Tho Province in the north and Binh Phuoc in the south where the state fuel giant PetroVietnam has invested in biofuel refineries.
Combined, they now have a capacity of 300,000 cubic meters a year.
Le Xuan Trinh, deputy director of PV Oil, PetroVietnam’s oil marketing company, said the ethanol plants could produce six million cubic meters of E5 a year--equivalent to 94 percent of Vietnam's gasoline demand in 2014.
But the plants’ operation remains perfunctory given low demand, Trinh said.
The Quang Ngai ethanol producer has had to export some of its output at VND13,000 a liter, lower than its planned domestic price of VND15,000 a liter.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung suggested gasoline retailers create a pricing gap to boost consumption –discounting E5 prices and charging extra for A92 and A95.
Tests by the Directorate for Standards, Metrology and Quality showed that ethanol gasoline helps reduce emissions significantly.
For example, using 10 percent ethanol gasoline almost halves CO emission compared to A92 RON – from more than 700 ppm to 400 ppm, the center found.
Lab experiments from Hanoi University of Technology also found hydrocarbon emissions from vehicles using E5 are lower than those using A92.
They found E5 allows vehicles to speed up faster and say that the fuel is better at maintaining engines.