The PM asked the ministry to quickly make a conclusion on the influence of gas on durability of components and equipment on motorbikes and cars, through which to answer the question whether gas is the direct reason for vehicle fires.
The PM also requested the Ministry of Industry and Trade to combine with related agencies to strictly control quality of petrol, from import to retail.
Earlier, on April 26, the Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Transport released a report, based on research of over 400 vehicle fires in Vietnam, which said that these fires were caused by different reasons, including short circuit, traffic accident, getting fires from other sources, etc, not by under-qualified gasoline.
A representative from the Anti-Fire Police Agency said that in 2010-2011, there were 276 car fires and 48 motorbike fires in Vietnam. In the first three months of 2012, the number was 115 cases, injuring three people and causing losses of over VND20 billion ($1 million).
According to the research, fires happened in vehicles that are manufactured by world-wide famous brands like BMW, Mercedes, Ford, Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, Daewoo and Mazda. Major reasons include being burnt, short circuit, traffic accident and getting fires from nearby sources.
There were some abnormal fires that under-qualified gasoline was doubted to be the reason. However, investigation did not verify it.
The research was carried out at the request of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, after a series of vehicle fires were reported throughout the country in late 2011 and early 2012.
The Ministry of Science and Technology’s Product Quality Management Agency also tested 26 samples of gasoline taken from burnt vehicles from December 27, 2011, to March 9, 2012, and concluded that gasoline did not cause fires.
However, researchers from the Refinery and Petrochemical Technology Research Center and the HCM City University of Technology, after conducting various tests and analyzing statistical figures, stated in mid-May that the use of poor quality gasoline is a main reason causing vehicle fires.
According to them, the fires were caused by three factors.
The first is the use of poor quality gasoline, like gasoline mixed with methanol or ethanol of low standards. This type of gasoline can cause damage to the gasoline pipe, leading to a fuel leak, which will catch fire if contacted by sparks caused by a short circuit, heat from friction in the brake system, or a source of continuous heat from the engine or other parts of the vehicle. A short circuit can occur when a fuse falters or is of poor quality.
Secondly, a fire on a motorbike could be caused by a short circuit, which generates sparks that then set fire to the leaked gasoline or inflammable items like plastic parts of the vehicle.
Thirdly, a fire could be caused by inflammable items, like gas lighters or perfume, which were left in the boot of the vehicle and caught fire when the boot, along with other parts of the vehicle, was heated up by a source of heat from the engine caused by gasoline with low octane indexes, like A83 gasoline or gasoline mixed with methanol or ethanol.
In brief, mixed gasoline of poor quality was the leading cause of most cases of fire, researchers said.
They said they have conducted many tests of samples of A83, A92 and A95 fuel, gasoline mixed with methanol and ethanol, and gasoline injected with a kind of energy-saving additive made in China.
The test results showed that mixed gasoline itself could not explode into flames without coming into contact with a source of fire or extreme heat.
However mixed gasoline, depending on the quality of methanol or ethanol added to it, may damage the gasoline pipe of a vehicle, thus causing a leak of fuel from the damaged pipe.
When added to gasoline, methanol or ethanol helps increase the octane value of the fuel, and a higher octane value means less gasoline is burned by the ignition of the spark plug.
However, depending on the volume of additive added to the gasoline, engines using such a mixture need to have their fuel operating system, sparking system, and compression rate, as well as a few other components, improved in order to enable them to use such a fuel.
If such improvements are not implemented, the gasoline pipe may crack and the carburetor float needle may be damaged, leading to a fuel leak in the carburetor and a flooded engine, especially in engines using an electronic fuel injection (EFI) system.
In such a case the leaked gasoline will catch fire if it is exposed to a spark coming from the vehicle’s electrical system, as mentioned above.
On the other hand, in vehicles run with gasoline mixed with poor quality methanol and ethanol, the temperature of its engine and many other components is often 10-20 degree Celsius higher than in vehicles fueled with standard gasoline.
Meanwhile, methanol and ethanol are usually chosen to be added to gasoline since they are much less expensive than other kinds of additives that have the same effect, researchers said.
The use of gasoline with methanol or ethanol as a replacement for conventional gasoline produced from crude oil has become common in many countries, since oil is becoming scarcer.
In Vietnam, the volumes of methanol imported in 2010 and 2011 were 90,000 tons and 80,000 tons respectively, while the figures in 2008 and 2009 were much lower, just 52,000 tons and 66,000 tons, respectively.
Recent investigations showed that gasoline containing a high content of methanol didn’t account for a small proportion of the fuel in use. Le Na