Filling stations across Ho Chi Minh City will begin selling biofuel this week.
Under a government plan that went into effect in December, the city will gradually replace 92-octane gasoline (A92) with E5--five percent of which is ethanol synthesized from cassava.
The HCMC Department of Trade and Industry said ten out of 19 fuel companies in the city are ready and the biofuel will become available in all of its 24 districts on December 1.
During a meeting last week on biofuel, the department's deputy director, Le Ngoc Dao, said several businesses began selling E5 a week earlier and consumers were receptive.
“I believe the city will see the same success as Da Nang City and Quang Ngai Province [in central Vietnam],” Dao was quoted by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspape as saying.
A government plan requires major cities like Hanoi, Hai Phong, Da Nang, Can Tho and Ho Chi Minh and Ba Ria-Vung Tau and Quang Ngai provinces to completely switch from A92-RON to E5 by the end of the year.
Quang Ngai, which is home to the country’s sole petroleum refinery and one of its three ethanol production plants, initiated the widespread sale on September 1.
Da Nang also effected the switch ahead of schedule.
Dao said that, as of last November 26, around 90 percent of filling stations in HCMC were ready to provide the new fuel.
“New stations will have to commit to selling E5 in order to obtain a license to operate,” she said.
The retail price is around the same of 92-RON gasoline, which is currently VND20,250 a liter, but related agencies said they are working to push that down to encourage consumption.
Insiders say Vietnam has enough biofuel to keep drivers moving nationwide.
Nguyen Duyen Cuong, deputy head of marketing and commerce at the state fuel giant PetroVietnam, told Tuoi Tre they can provide not only for the seven cities and provinces that will switch to E5 in December, but also to meet the larger demand from the national switch in December of next year.
Vu Kien Chinh, vice chairman of Vietnam’s Bio-fuel Association, estimated ethanol demand in seven localities to be around 350,000 tons and 500,000 tons nationwide.
Chinh said Vietnam can meet those demands domestically.
Nguyen Anh Toan, deputy general director of PV Oil, PetroVietnam’s marketing company, said the switch to E5 is not really costly or complicated.
Toan said fuel companies can implement the switch with a few minor adjustments that will cost between VND5-10 million (US$234-468) per pump.
PV Oil will subsidize those costs.
Dang Duy Quan, deputy general director of Petrolimex, the country’s biggest importer and trader of oil products, said they began preparing for the switch last year.
“We started a trial sale on November 26 and sold 5,000 liters of E5 from noon to night,” Quan said.
Quan guaranteed the fuel’s quality.
He said inspectors throughout the city will gather and test samples of the fuel every month.
The company will also inspect filling station equipment every six months to prevent fraud, he said.
He said the stations will also have cameras and display hotlines if customers want to lodge complaints.
Lab experiments conducted by the Hanoi University of Technology found E5 does no harm to vehicle engines and actually is better job for maintaining them.
They found vehicles that use E5 accelerate faster and emit less hydrocarbons than those powered by A92.