28 Jan 2015

Z Energy: Don't take risks for cheap fuel

7:47 am on 28 January 2015

Irresponsible customers filling up soft drink bottles with cheap fuel are risking explosions on the forecourt and at home, a petrol company says.

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Photo: RNZ

Z Energy spokesperson Sheena Thomas said a number of people have been spotted trying to fill plastic bottles with petrol and blamed the recent drop in fuel prices.

"Soft drink bottles [have been used], things that are made to store milk, and I've also heard of people trying to fill jerry cans," she said.

"It's not something that we've seen very much previously, so it's something that we've recently noticed with this low oil price environment."

Ms Thomas said most instances have been seen in the Bay of Plenty.

She said with the hugely volatile nature of petrol, these bottles could ignite on the service station forecourts or in storage at home.

"If something does happen, even if you and your household are safe, you may not be covered by insurance any more," she said.

"If it's not a properly, purpose-built fuel container, there could be an explosion still. The fuel could start vapourising.

"And also, you don't want to store it for very long. It's not [made] for long-term storage and if you then put it in your car, you might have trouble starting it.

Fire Service National Manager of Fire Investigation Peter Wilding said the deterioration of a standard plastic bottle could happen very fast.

"It will depend on the plastics and on the seals but it doesn't take very long for petrol to soften those sort of plastics," he said.

"If you've got any trip home in the car or even if you're walking, it'll just collapse on itself, open up and spill down your legs or something.

"If there's any ignition source nearby then you're placing yourself at very serious risk."

He said it was not seen very often.

"That's probably in part due to the diligence of our service stations. Many of them will require a cashier to release a pump before it'll start working so they will have the opportunity to stop it.

"But if somebody's filling up their car, there's nothing to stop them of course then transferring to another bottle ... It probably comes out of ignorance, but it's certainly foolhardy."

The Environmental Protection Authority said only specially designed containers should be used, with a screw-cap to prevent liquid or vapour leaking out.

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