Reason behind Failing Spark Plugs: Iron or Manganese?

Experts: All metals affect combustion and engine performance on different levels.

Akeed – Oil production and oil importing companies in Jordan have not answered the main question asked by the media regarding "the reason behind spark plugs’ decay in vehicles,” which raised concerns about an issue that questioned the nature of gasoline sold to consumers.

Following complaints made by citizens about the quality of gasoline used in their vehicles, several stories were published in the local media about what’s causing spark plugs to fail. Complaints were made despite the Jordan Standards and Metrology Organization (JSMO) issuing a statement assuring the inspection of both local and imported refined gasoline.

Experts Commenting

A state of confusion amongst both consumers and concerned citizens continued as a spate of various stories questioning the high-concentration levels of manganese, iron and other metals in gasoline and its compliance with the applicable requirements and standards were matched with a surge of press statements made by marketing companies.

Mr. Khaldoun Zeinati, an Electromechanical Engineer, told “Akeed” that the quality of gasoline is associated with the concentration levels of the metals in it and that the affect fluctuates according to the type and concentration level of each metal.

“I believe that according to technical standards in Jordan, the amount of manganese used in gasoline is around 4-24 mg/l while there is no specified amount set for iron. Iron-buildup on spark plugs results in forming a layer of insulation and causes electric current leakage, which prevents gas from properly reaching the exhaust and gives inaccurate readings in modern car computers; accordingly affecting the overall performance of the engine.” Zeinati stated.

“Iron traces are clear as they leave a red dye on spark plugs,” Zeinati added. Noting that “High quality gasoline is set with low levels of metal concentrations, including that of manganese, which can also damage and cause engine failure.”

Metals are added to gasoline in order to raise the level of octane, said Munther Kandah, a Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST).

In his statement to “Akeed”, Kandah added that the process is done within certain rates and limitations, as using too much of any metal additives causes corrosion and reduces electric conduction and engine's life span.

 “Though both iron and manganese affect combustion and engine performance if found in high concentrations, iron has a deeper effect compared to that of manganese. Iron is a better conductor with a higher tendency to form rust, hence gasoline quality standards specify lower iron levels than that of manganese,” Kandah concluded.

Exchanged Data

According to the statement issued by Jordan Standards and Metrology Organization (JSMO), samples of imported and locally-refined gasoline were examined through General Society of Surveillance (SGS) laboratories.

 

Results showed that the levels of manganese in imported gasoline comply with the requirements of the Jordanian technical specifications. However, high levels of iron additives were found.

 

The statement did not suggest that the high levels of these substances (whether manganese levels in locally refined gasoline or iron levels in imported gasoline) are causing the decay of spark plugs in vehicles. However, the report revealed a 24 mg/l manganese level in the 90-Octane that is locally-refined by the Jordan Petroleum Refinery Company (JoPetrol), which is an amount that doesn’t comply with the Jordanian technical specifications of 2 mg/l.

 

JSMO has previously confirmed in a statement issued on September 10, 2018, that 90-Octane gasoline, 95-Octane gasoline and Euro 5 Diesel are in compliance with Jordanian standards and specifications. 

 

The Organization has also confirmed in a statement published on December 30, 2017, that 90-Octane gasoline available in the market at the time was matching to the Jordanian standards and that there were oil derivatives ceased from any gas stations in the Kingdom.

 

In September, the Consumers Protection Association (CPA) raised serious concerns after receiving various citizens’ complaint about increased fuel consumption of (Gasoline 90), while complaints about frequently damaged spark plugs were also on the rise.

Jordan Petroleum Refinery Company (JoPetrol)

The statement by JSMO, which did not specify what’s causing damage to spark plugs, prompted Jordan Petroleum Refinery Company (JoPetrol) to issue a corresponding press release the following day.

 

JoPetrol press release was published as a paid advertisement on the front page of the daily newspapers and was also followed by a press conference led by the company’s General Manager, Abdel Karim Alawin.

 

The Company expressed surprise at the statement made by JSMO, gave details about the issue since and stated the actions taken during its previous meetings with relevant parties.

 

Referring to globally published researches, JoPetrol confirmed that adding iron to gasoline leads to increased consumption of fuel and causes damage to the spark plugs. The solution is “to ban the iron additives in gasoline,” the Company added.

 

Producing gasoline for nearly 60 years, JoPetrol has also been producing 90-Octane since December 2007 using manganese (which is used globally in the production of gasoline) without receiving any complaints from consumers about any damage in spark plugs, the statement included.

The Company stressed that “it would have been more efficient to consult with an internationally specialized expert in order to identify the root of the problem which is causing the increase of consumption and the damage to spark plugs, and accordingly define the responsibility and provide the solutions”

During the press conference, Alawin added that “a sample of three spark plugs were reviewed by representatives of  automobile companies to be objectively examined, where it was evident that the damage was due to the use of imported gasoline containing iron, which is not an issue in local gasoline.”

It is noteworthy that the JoPetrol refines gasoline locally and is being pardoned from complying with the Jordanian standards until the completion of its refinery’s expansion project. Meanwhile, other companies like "Manaseer" and "Total" are permitted to import gasoline.

Manaseer and Total

After the document containing SGS report was leaked –which included a 43 page of meeting minutes that took place earlier this week between marketing companies, the head of the Syndicate of Fuel (SOF) in Jordan and the President of the General Association of Automotive Agents, Spare Parts and Accessories Traders– both Manaseer and Total companies released a joint statement earlier this week, which was also published as a paid advertisement to appear in a prominent spot in newspapers.

In their statement, the two companies said that “having two types of fuel in the local market has caused a state of confusion and dissatisfactions amongst Jordanian drivers," stressing that the quality and conformity of oil derivatives that are imported to the local market are in compliance with the Jordanian standards.

“There are two types of fuel are sold in the local market; the first is an imported product that totally complies with JSMO requirements, while the other product is produced locally and is exempted from abiding to Jordanian standards. This exemption was renewed for an additional 5 years in May 1, 2018,” the statement added.

JoPetrol Exemption

On the issue of exempting the Jordan Petroleum Refinery Company (JoPetrol) from having to comply with the Jordanian standards and specifications, the Prime Ministry issued a statement on Wednesday, December 5, stating that "the Council’s decision on April 30, 2018 to exclude oil derivatives refined by JoPetrol from meeting the Jordanian standards and specifications was not a new decision at the time, but an extension to an existing one that was taken in previous years.”

The Prime Ministry pointed out that the decision specified extending the period of exemption until the expansion project of the JoPetrol is completed, given that it is to be implemented according to the stages detailed in a clear timetable that was provided by JoPetrol, otherwise the decision to extend the exemption will be considered void.

Media outlets shared information –that were attributed to credible sources– regarding the intention of Jordan Standards and Metrology Organization (JSMO) to ban the use of iron in the refined and imported gasoline. However, JSMO Director General, Rula Madanat, renounced the news.

The issue of damaged spark plugs has become a matter of public opinion, which entails JSMO (being the official authority concerned) to accurately determine the facts and the impact of those metals on the combustion process in vehicles, and if they indeed are causing damage. Media outlets were also expected to follow-up and further investigate the issue instead of only publishing commercial ads for companies producing and importing gasoline in order to cover the whole story from all angles.

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