AA Warns of Laundered And Sub-Standard Diesel


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The AA has recently received complaints from motorists concerning Laundered and sub-standard diesel. The motoring organization is advising people to buy carefully or they risk being hit for a costly repair.

“This is not a new phenomenon, but with current fuel prices so high and people feeling the pinch it does seem to be on the rise.” Says Director of Policy Conor Faughnan. “It may be tempting when you see a fantastic price but you should only ever get your fuel from a reputable source. Regrettably we are hearing more anecdotal stories about this in recent months, including motorists who have faced costly repairs.”

‘Laundered’ diesel refers to Marked Gas Oil, which has had its green marker dye chemically disguised or partially removed. Marked Gas Oil is sold for agricultural purposes and has a lower tax rate than ordinary diesel. It is marked with a dye for identification and it is an offence to use this fuel for a road vehicle.

Unscrupulous operators can scam the public by ‘washing’ the dye from the fuel. This illegal activity involves using chemicals such as sulphuric acid and caustic soda as bleaching and neutralising agents. It is invariably done in improvised or makeshift facilities, and even when such criminal enterprises are quite sophisticated they are carried out in flagrant violation of any legal or ethical standards in terms of health and safety and in terms of protection of the environment. It also means a serious loss to the exchequer.

Unsuspecting Motorists have been hit by serious damage costs, for example one motorist reported a quotation up to the cost of €1,641 for the replacement of a fuel injector pump. Diesel fails to reach the engine from the tank as a result of a blockage which garages describe as an oily clump or mass. The cause of this blockage is almost  certainly “bad” diesel.

“Diesel fuel that is sold through a sub-standard outlet may be contaminated in other ways and may not be illegally laundered agricultural fuel.” Says Faughnan. “However we should not be naive. There is no doubt that – with so much money at stake – fuel laundering is going on.”

AA advises motorists to buy their fuel from reputable outlets only. Topaz fuels are audited and quality checked by the AA. Other major brands and established reputable service stations should also have quality assurance standards that the driver can trust.

Based only on anecdotal evidence, it seems that Louth, Meath and border locations are the worst affected areas.  In some cases where the contaminated fuel has been drawn into the fuel system the repair could run into thousands of euro. Even when the car has not been started, garages face a long and labour intensive job to drain and clear the system, and they will charge accordingly.

If you feel your car has been contaminated, do not drive it as you will make any damage worse. Call AA Fuel Assist* on 1890 456 226 for help and advice. AA Fuel Assist is a service aimed at people who have put in the wrong fuel by accident which is quite common. AA technicians can safely drain the fuel system and replace it with clean fuel, and will also ensure the safe and environmentally responsible disposal of the contaminated fuel.*

The AA advises motorists to always buy from a reputable source and inform the AA of any suspicions about laundered fuel being sold. If the car’s still under warranty you should check with the franchised dealer regarding their advice and correct remedial action.
Call 1890 456 226 or log onto www.aaireland.ie/fuel-assist for further info on Fuel Assist services.


Agricultural diesel or Marked Gas Oil has a rate of excise duty of 4.7 cents per litre. Auto-diesel has an excise duty rate of 41 cents per litre, almost ten times higher.

It is often referred to as ‘Red’ diesel, although in fact the colouring agent used has for many years been a green dye. Hence ‘red’ diesel is green.

Fuel quality standards in Ireland are set by the European Union and are monitored by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

*AA Fuel Assist is a paid-for service. The rate is €199 (reduced for the month of June 2010)