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How the European Commission is working with Dow to beat the cheats – Combating fuel fraud and protecting global interests

Lube Magazine’s Editor recently sat down with Daniel Saiz, technical service and development – Project Leader, from Dow Industrial Solutions and Blanca Merino, Marketing Manager / Global Fuel Additives Market Segment Leader, to discuss the issue of ‘fuel fraud’. This is an excerpt from their conversation on fuel fraud, its importance, and how Dow is helping protect governments, consumers, and the environment from this widespread problem.

Editor: What is the impact of fuel fraud and why is it such an important topic today?

Daniel Saiz (DS): Not everyone is familiar with the term fuel fraud or may not realize that it’s an important global issue that society needs to tackle. Fuel laundering – a type of fuel fraud – is the criminal act of removing fuel markers added to fuels that are allocated for lower-taxed essential uses, such as agriculture and home heating, and selling them for higher taxed uses, such as automotive fuel, to avoid taxes that generate revenue for governments. Many fraudulent or counterfeit fuels are adulterated with other substances, resulting in low-quality fuels that degrade vehicle engines and increase pollution.

Fuel fraud has a high cost to governments, consumers and the environment. Globally, it affects governments with direct yearly tax losses of USD 100 billion[1]; EUR 7- 10[2] billion in the European Union. These losses are a drain on governments’ spending on public goods and services and has a knock-on impact on consumers. Unsuspecting motorists using these adulterated petrol products will experience serious and long-lasting damage to their vehicles and increased toxic tailpipe emissions. Also, the process of separating lower performing fuel markers (colorful or extractable dyes) from fuel uses chemicals that cause significant additional pollution and threats to public health, as toxic by-products are illegally dumped into the environment.

Editor: What solutions do we have to reduce the impact of fuel fraud?

DS: “Fuel marking with chemical substances (markers and dyes) is a highly effective solution to detect fraudulent fuel use and enforce the law, and Dow is a leading provider of fuel marking technologies. We offer a range of launder-resistant solutions under the ACCUTRACE™ brand. Adding these markers to a fuel makes it easily identifiable through visual inspection for dyes and non-covert markers or chemical tests. But criminals’ techniques continually evolve, with the use of increasingly sophisticated equipment and marker-removal techniques. To combat this fraud, we are working with fuel producers to track the situation and develop new resilient marker solutions.”

Editor: How is Dow contributing to fuel fraud prevention?

DS: “Our fuel marking technologies have been used by governments worldwide for years. Since we introduced the ACCUTRACE™ fuel marker range in 2015 in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, the evidence indicates that this marker has been effective in reducing fuel laundering incidents. Building on these successes we’ve developed the new patented technology, ACCUTRACE™ Plus fuel marker. We are pleased that this product range recently was chosen as the new common fiscal marker for the European Union (EU), replacing the incumbent Solvent Yellow 124. The ACCUTRACE™ innovation is undetectable without sophisticated and dedicated analytical methods – a significant deterrent for criminal activities and a benefit for law enforcement. Its innovative molecular marking technology enables authorities to efficiently monitor and identify petroleum products. It is also highly resistant to known removal techniques, effectively prevents laundering, supports fuel brand authentication and enables petroleum product tracking.”

Editor: Why did the European Commission adopt Dow’s solution as the new Euromarker?

Blanca Merino (BM): “Some other fuel markers contain harmful additives and require the use of dangerous chemicals for detection. They’re also not completely resistant to laundering, as we see that criminals rapidly developed new methods to ‘hack’ them. ACCUTRACE™ Plus Forensic Fuel Marker was selected by the European Commission as the new Euromarker following an extensive independent technical review of the latest fuel marking technologies. This scientific evaluation was done together with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre that is staffed by some of Europe’s leading scientists. These tests have demonstrated that ACCUTRACE™ Plus Forensic Fuel Marker has unique resilience to the most common illegal removal techniques. The public evaluation report of the European Commission and Joint Research Centre, documents that it outperformed the existing Euromarker and the other incumbent marker candidates.”

Editor: Going forward, how will Dow continue to contribute to fuel fraud prevention?

BM: “The European Commission’s decision to adopt ACCUTRACE™ Plus Fuel Marker as the new Euromarker clearly validates the value of our technology. Based on this success we continue deeper research and innovation initiatives. Fuel fraud is a serious global issue that no one single company can solve. This is why Dow, by partnering with a range of governments and oil companies, is continually innovating fuel marking technologies with the aim of helping to further strengthen fuel marking programs worldwide.”

Learn more about Dow’s ACCUTRACE™ fuel marker products, visit:     

[1] ”How Chemistry Is Helping Defeat Fuel Fraud”, Alex Scott, Chemical & Engineering News (Feb 1, 2016)

[2] Ecorys (2019): Study on the estimated economic implications of fuel laundering & wider fuel fraud in the EU

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