Petrol sniffing has become a significant health and social issue in some areas and as a result, some remote communities in central and northern Australia have totally banned the sale and trade of normal petrol to try and kerb the problem.
Many motorists travelling into remote areas opt for diesel power and so are not affected by these bans. However those reliant on petrol should be aware of a relatively new fuel known as OPAL that may be found under various fuel company brands in selected communities, including major centres such as Alice Springs and Tennant Creek.
Developed by BP, this unleaded petrol has low aromatic hydrocarbon properties making it unsatisfactory for sniffing, as it won’t produce the desired ‘high’. Production and transport costs for OPAL are higher than normal fuel and the previous Federal Government has provided $42.7 million over 5 years for its rollout into communities.
We have summarised here information supplied by the Federal Government to assist motorists.
OPAL has a different smell and appearance to normal ULP, and independent toxicology testing shows it to be the least toxic fuel in terms of chronic exposure.
OPAL exceeds all national standards for regular ULP (91 RON) and can be used in all regular ULP automotive applications including two and four-stroke engines. It can be used in outboards too but isn’t suitable for aviation use. Tests show it provides similar performance, a negligible increase in fuel consumption and similar or slightly reduced exhaust emissions compared to normal ULP. It can be safely mixed with regular ULP too.
A survey performed by RACQ’s sister club in South Australia, RAA, suggests that there is no substance to anecdotal claims linking failure of fuel system rubber components to use of OPAL fuel. Vehicles using OPAL appear to be no more susceptible to such problems than those not using it. In the small number of vehicles located with a problem, normal wear and tear for age was found to be the cause rather than the specific fuel used.