A welcomed transportation price break was met with clogged streets as a striking roughly six percent pump price reduction which left drivers celebrating was dampened by shortages of gas causing long lines that stretched into the transportation arteries of Addis Ababa.
After months of rising gas prices, the government reduced the retail price of petrol by 1.18 birr per liter at the beginning of last week from 20.44 per liter to 19.26 per liter. A breakdown at an OiLibya facility which mixes gasoline with ethanol is the apparent culprit for the shortage which left many gas stations across the city posting signs that read: “no fuel”, causing strained traffic with long lines of cars hoping to refuel. Although the petrol stations resumed in some parts of the city, on Thursday and Friday, some remained closed claiming they have not received the blended gas yet.
“Our blending facility failed due to an electro mechanical problem with the blending machine. We have repaired it a day after the problem came to our attention. We don’t have any supply chain problem. We have enough stock in our depot,” Baharu Temesgen, Communication officer of OiLibya told Capital.
Taxi riders, who had some of the gas savings passed onto them with a five to ten cent reduction on most trips, were also affected as taxis became sparse when they could not get gas.
There are two blending facilities in the country, of which one is owned by OiLibya and the other by Nile Petroleum. The government has given a permit to the two fuel distributing companies to blend 10 percent ethanol with 90 percent petroleum.
Previously it only took one or two days to distribute blended benzene. Unblended benzene is not distributed to stations.
There is speculation in the town that the Sululta depot too is not blending this time around which is believed to make matters worse, according to sources in the industry.
“We have enough benzene. There was a shortage of ethanol blended benzene early in the week. However, we have been distributing the blended one as of Friday, January 13,” said Tsega Asmare, Board Chairman of Yetebaberut Beharawi Petroleum Share Company.
Still at the time we went to print some stations say they still do not have gas.
A Kobil fuel station owner said in anonymity:
“My colleagues and I don’t have fuel in our station. A day before the fuel price was reviewed; we were told that the ethanol blended benzene would be available. Though the price has been reduced, we don’t have the product in our tanker. Later, we learned that the depot had difficulty getting ethanol. So we cannot get fuel,” the station owner said.