The South African fuel industry is facing a crisis that is going to make Eskom's problems look like a picnic, the Fuel Retailers' Association (FRA) says.
This is because the pipelines used to get fuel from refineries along the coast to inland distribution points are crumbling and refineries past their lifespan are unable to cope with increasing demands.
Imported fuel has to be transported by road, because of the dire state of the pipelines, and the inability of the country's rail network to deliver.
"Nobody is building stockpiles, which is something we need as demands increase," says Peter Morgan, the director of the FRA.
He says South Africa has imported fuel for years because the country's refineries are unable to make enough for local needs.
Once the petrol or diesel is imported, the ability to transport it inland is limited "because the pipelines cannot cope, the rail system cannot cope".
"Why can't motorists invest in strategic stocks? Why can't the service station owner invest in strategic stocks?" he asked. Morgan also questions the validity of claims that the "environment is not right" for the petrol industry to invest in infrastructure expansion and upgrades.
The fuel strategic supply task team, set up by the government after the 2005 fuel crisis, stated in its report that the liquid fuels supply chain would be significantly constrained by 2008.
The report shows that for security of supply over the next 15 years, construction of an adequately sized pipeline is a priority investment. To support this, depot infrastructure investments, including tankage, receiving and loading facilities, will also be needed.
Connel Ngcukana, the director of the South African Petroleum Industry Association, says: "People are working day and night to ensure infrastructure is upgraded."
But he will give no guarantees that fuel will not be in short supply.
full story from Sunday Tribune here