Call for local diesel use intensifies as Pakistan Railways’ import dependency raises concerns

Issue of import of HSD has been pending for resolution since Dec 2019 despite various representations by local refineries

ISLAMABAD   -   Pakistan Railways, instead of procuring High Speed Diesel (HSD) from local refineries, is opting to import the fuel, thereby exacerbating the country’s import bill.

This issue of import of HSD has been pending for resolution since December 2019 despite various communication/ representations by the local refineries, said a letter written by Attock Refinery Limited to Secretary Railways Division.  

“We write to draw your kind attention towards the tender floated by Pakistan Railways for meeting its HSD requirements and contested by different Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) in the country,” the letter written by Adil Khattak, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) ARL.

“We wish to inform you that HSD produced by local refineries meets all the performance specifications required for high and medium speed diesel engines of Pakistan Railways. The only parameter which is not as per Pakistan Railways tender is “flash point”, which is not a quality parameter, and it does not have any effect on the engine performance, and is primarily required for safety in handling and use.

It is pertinent to mention that flash point specification in Pakistan for the local refineries is 54°C, whereas Pakistan Railways tender requires HSD flash at 66° C, which is applicable to imported HSD in the country. Due to the aforementioned limitation/restriction, HSD produced by local refineries in the country cannot be used by Pakistan Railways, the letter said.

Needless to say that HSD produced by local refineries with flash point of 54°C is higher/ equivalent in comparison to the flash point of HSD in India (35 °C), Brazil and Argentina, (38°C), Canada (40°C), USA (38°C/ 52°C), Japan (45°C/ 50°C), European Union (55°C), South Korea (40°C), and in China (45°C/ 55°C).

To further substantiate local refineries point of view for use of local HSD by Pakistan Railways, copies of “tender floated by Indian Railways” for supply of HSD conforming IS 1460 latest specifications with a flash point of 35°C by Abel (Min) was also shared earlier.

In 2021, the Railway Headquarters Lahore had acknowledged that there is no issue /problem to use HSD with 54 °C flash point in their locomotives. Yet the flash point specification as reported in their last tender still persist at 66 °C, thus ignoring the use of indigenously produced HSD, which is not understandable and disappointing.

In view of above submissions, it is once again requested that HSD specification for Pakistan Railways be revised specifically for flash point from 66 °C to 54°C (Min.) which is locally produced and widely used in Pakistan, and local HSD specifications be made part of Pakistan Railways tender documents.

The above initiative, if implemented will not only reduce Pakistan Railway  reliance on imported product, but would also result in precious foreign exchange savings to the country, which is the need of the hour.

We look forward to your favourable response to our above submissions and shall be pleased to provide any further information or explain on this subject should you so desire. This anomaly rules out use of locally produced diesel by Pak Railways making it dependent on imported diesel.

Meanwhile, Adil Khattak, CEO, Attock Refinery Ltd commented that we are at a loss to understand as to why Pak Railways is adamant on using specifications of 66°C flash point of only imported diesel when many countries like USA, Canada, European Union, Japan, China, South Korea, India and South America are using same or even lower flash point specs than Pakistan’s for locally produced diesel. We also provided copies of Indian Railways’ tender specifying 35°C Flash point much lower than Pakistan’s specification for locally produced diesel and so much so that even Pak Railways’ own committee in May 2021 confirmed that there is no issue with using 54°C flash point HSD but the matter still remains unresolved.

He said that the matter was put up with previous railways ministers and CEOs but for some unexplained reason the anomaly continues causing not only loss of precious foreign exchange but also making a strategic asset dependent on imported fuel.

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