Sixteen people have been arrested after a raid in Kenya's capital Nairobi, for engaging in fuel adulteration.
The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (ERPA) officers carried out the swoop at Industrial Area following a tip-off by members of the public, where thousands of litres of petroleum products used in the illegal activity were found.
An adulterated fuel is one in which an inferior quality petroleum product has been added thereby contaminating and weakening it. The adulteration mainly involves adding kerosene or diesel to petrol, with kerosene being the main adulterant.
ERPA Director-General Pavel Oimeke said that the Authority, in collaboration with detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the National Police Service, has been monitoring operations at the site for weeks.
“This illegal activity has been going on for a while now. We have been carrying out surveillance with DCI and on Friday we arrested the individuals who are part of the syndicate,” said Mr Oimeke on Tuesday.
“We have also impounded the vehicles (found at the scene) and we are going to demolish this site,” he added.
He said that the 16 suspects will be arraigned on Wednesday.
The regulator said the individuals were involved in mixing of petrol, diesel, heavy fuel oil and lubricants. He said cheap exports and dumping had made the illegal activity flourish in Kenya.
Mr Oimeke said that they are also looking for the landlord who will be charged with allowing illegal activities on the property.
"We want land owners to also keep an eye on what is going on in the plots they lease out to people," he said.
Industrial Area has become notorious for such activities which has seen over 20 sites closed down by the Authority this year alone.
In April, the Authority arrested seven people after a swoop along Lunga Lunga Road in Industrial Area.
More than 5,000 litres of diesel, 500 litres of petrol, 400 litres of engine oil, and 900 litres of kerosene and an oil tanker with a capacity of about 1,000 litres were found at the site.
Countrywide, over 100 such illegal sites have been raided and more than 8,000 litres of adulterated fuels found. Majority of the dens were discovered in Kisumu, Mombasa, Nairobi and Kitale.
“The incentive to make quick money is fuelling the activity. We are finding a lot of export products being diverted here because they do not have taxes,” he said.
The illegal trade has resulted in big losses in revenue for the government, deterioration of engine parts and increased emission levels that are harmful to the environment.
Adulterated fuel can lead to engine malfunctions, failure of components and compromised safety. This is in addition to increased emissions of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter that intoxicate the air.
Experts say health problems could result from harmful tailpipe emissions and cancer causing pollutants, though not all forms of adulteration are harmful. For instance, small amounts of kerosene added to diesel record insignificant changes in tailpipe emissions.
Kerosene mixed with petrol on the other hand, results in higher emissions because they do not form a uniform mixture, leading to incomplete combustion and even more particulate products.