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Petrol Used in Your Cars in Pakistan is One of the Worst in the World

Most people in Pakistan think petrol is just petrol. Unfortunately that’s not it. Petrol comes with a certain quality, standard of purity and a pre-calculated formula of mixture and obviously not all petrol is good petrol; especially when you are in Pakistan.

Would you be shocked if you are told that Pakistan is (officially) selling one of the the worst qualities of “standard petrol” in the world?

Illegally imported petrol — that’s widely available across Pakistan — is even further degraded in quality that can not only harm your pockets due to low average mileage but it also damages the engine of your vehicle.

How Engines Work

The reason why people end up with ample engine faults is usually because of the low quality petrol.

Engines work by igniting the fuel, resulting in a detonation. Petrol engines rely on combusting air and fuel compressed together as a mixture. Hence, compression is an important factor for petrol engines (compression engines).

Problems Caused by Using Low Quality Petrol

When petrol gets ignited before the intended spark ignition, it results in uncontrolled explosions in the engine. Since these detonations are uncontrolled, it hurts the engine and they fail to last a long time.

People keep getting their engines rebuilt because of this problem. Due to the excess of air or petrol, the explosions exceed the designed limits that engine components can handle. We can say that the fuel explodes instead of burning smoothly. These explosions are generally called “knocks” or “pings”.

In short we can say that low quality petrol causes following issues:

  • Engine damage – resulting in regular faults and decreased resale value
  • Increased engine noise
  • Poor mileage
  • Slow acceleration
  • Engine shuts down on its own randomly
  • Reduced top speeds
  • Incomplete combustion causes more toxic emissions
  • Modern cars are not designed for low quality petrol

Quality Measure

Petrol quality is assessed by measuring the amount of octane in it. It can be measured using an octane rating. The most commonly used method of measuring petrol’s quality is Research Octane Number (RON). You can also say that RON tells petrol’s anti-knock quality.

RON is measured by running the fuel in a test engine. This engine usually has a variable compression ratio under controlled conditions at 600 RPM. The test informs about the amount of octane molecules in the petrol. Simply having more octanes isn’t better, that’s where RON numbers come in handy to identify what’s best.

Other than RON, Motor Octane Number (MON) and Anti-Knock Index (AKI) are also used. MON uses a more demanding 900RPM engine while AKI is calculated using the difference between RON and MON.

Generally, a difference of 1 RON is a lot and can make a lot of difference in how a car operates. Simply switching from 97 to 98 RON can fix a car’s knocking problem, making it run perfectly smooth.

Quality of Petrol in Pakistan

Pakistani petrol stations sell 87 RON petrol as a standard. The same standard is being used for the past 20 years, however, cars, technology and the rest of the world has already moved ahead.

Then there’s Hi-Octane (HOBC), that’s sold on select petrol stations, which comes with comparatively higher RON of 95.

That’s pretty much all the petrol quality we have in Pakistan.

Not to mention, a lot of petrol is smuggled from Iran and is widely sold across Pakistan. This Irani petrol comes with even lower RON value but is sold across Pakistan on petrol stations of all companies.

Another issue, prevalent in Pakistan is that private pump owners tend to mix jet fuel (which costs half of what petrol does), benzene or kerosene with petrol in order to make more profits. Sadly, the government isn’t too keen on banning pumps selling impure petrol as there’s no check and balance and pump owners are usually given a free hands.

Comparison with International Markets

We would like to mention the different qualities of petrol available in some countries so our readers can compare just how far behind Pakistani market is in this regard. Another point to note is that most countries also stopped selling leaded petrol 2 decades ago, since it is hazardous for health. However, it is still available in Pakistan.

The countries with their respective petrol RON values are listed below:

  • Australia: Regular (91), Premium (95/98)
  • China: Rural (92), Urban (95), Premium (98)
  • Germany: Regular (95), Premium (98), Ultimate (100)
  • Hong Kong: 98 RON only
  • India*: Regular (91) with some special additives, Premium (93 & 97)
  • Iran: Regular (92), Super (95)
  • Russia: Regular (92), Premium (95), Most expensive (98)
  • Saudi Arabia: Regular (91), Premium (95)
  • Sri Lanka: Regular (92), Super (95)
  • Turkey: Regular (95), Premium (98)
  • UK: Regular (95), Premium (97), Premium Plus (99), Ultimate (102)
  • US: Multiple offerings ranging from 90 to 110.

*India manufactures small cars which are specially designed to avoid knocking problems with low RON fuels hence the 91 RON standard.

As you can see above, no country (with officially available RON stats) is offering petrol below the 91 RON standard. Most countries use 92 RON while countries which have a large automotive industry use 95 RON for regular petrol. Some countries offer users the choice to get the type of fuel which is most suitable for their car, depending on the size of the engine.

RON Price Difference

When compared with 87 RON prices, a higher quality 92 RON fuel would cost an additional Rs 2.5 to Rs 3 per liter. A 95 RON upgrade would cost an additional Rs 4 to Rs 6 per liter. These estimates are based on international rates.

How Should Pakistan Calculate the Appropriate RON Value?

RON values are dependent on air density and oxygen quantity in it. A car which requires 98 RON at sea level would work fine on 95 RON when in a mountainous region.

Our government, which is aware of the cars being used in Pakistan, can establish a minimum RON level which would suit most cars. If most people have cars under 1000cc, anything more than 92 RON would suffice, but if there’s a majority of people using cars with a powerful engine, then another standard with a greater RON value should also be made available.


Simply increasing the RON values isn’t the answer. The value has to be appropriately selected depending on the market and the geography of the country.

For a country the size of Pakistan, having at least three or four different fuel types would be a good step.

Pakistan’s Recent Steps in this Direction

Earlier this year, the government asked the oil companies to upgrade their refineries and replace the below standard petrol with a higher one, although with a higher price tag.

The oil companies unanimously rejected the proposal, citing their conditions that they would accept only if they can sell the low quality fuel under the new brand which would help them make up for the losses in technology upgradation

Some industrial players, including Shell, wanted the government to allow selling multiple differential fuels i.e. 87, 92, 95 RON with minor price differentials. The petroleum ministry refused the companies’ proposal citing that consumers won’t know if they are getting 87 or 92 RON due to mistrust.

In our opinion, it was a good proposal because the consumer still doesn’t know if the petrol they are is getting is pure enough or not.

Differential fuel strategy could cater to all types of consumers vehicles, like motorcycles (with lesser RON requirements), small cars, medium-sized cars, etc.

As far as the local oil refineries are concerned, they called the task completely impossible before 2019. They haven’t even started any upgrades yet and it could take some time before they even begin such a project. It would take about 3 years plus million of dollars of investment for the refineries to get the upgrade.

However as far as oil companies are concerned, it would take them around 6 to 8 months to import, market and distribute 92 RON petrol after government approval. Pakistan imports a major share of petrol to fulfill its demand and supply gap and directly importing a higher grade petrol would be a feasible interim option.

It has been reported that Pakistani refineries are at least moving towards Euro-II standard 87 RON petrol. It has more to do with the contents of the petrol and little to do with engine performance. It will improve upon emission standards and will be available in Pakistan by the third quarter this year.

Regular Testing Procedures

Petrol is regularly monitored on most company owned petrol pumps. Oil companies have their own checking vans, which visit pumps occasionally and check the purity and RON value of the fuel.

The vans are equipped with portable RON meters calibrated with a 600cc testing engine, letting the individuals test the fuel quality right then and there.

Company-owned petrol pumps are usually more vigilant in inspecting fuels as compared to private or franchise based petrol pumps.

Government, as in many other cases, isn’t too keen on such testing procedures. Hence, anyone can go ahead and start selling impure petrol without any worries.

Final Words

Future plans give a clear picture that oil companies and oil refineries are in no real hurry to improve their petrol standards. They want to keep the current standard in order to keep growing their profits.

The government doesn’t want to interfere with the petrol regulations, nor force companies to sell high quality petrol. It does not even want to ban pumps which mix jet fuel with petrol.

It is the government’s job to regulate the oil companies and refineries and maintain standards.

Simply leaving it to them would never solve the issue. It’s not fiscally advantageous enough for private companies’ to make the change. Leaving the industry to regulate itself is naive.

Meanwhile, people owning cars with powerful engines, should opt to buy premium petrol (Hi Octane) all the time. The rest should avoid private or franchise petrol pumps unless you are really sure that the fuel you are getting is really 100 percent petrol.

  • generator or bikes k liay alag line of pterol itna ganda k saf nazar a rahay particles

  • I always go for PSO Hi Octane for my Vitz 1000cc. When driving on HI Octance a clearcut difference can be experienced. No knocking and considerable acceleration! Give PSO HI Octance a try!

    • What about shell hi octane ? Em from multan and hi octane is not rugularly available ? Agar hi octane na mile tu kauni company ka petrol dalwaya jaye ? I laso kwn 1000cc vitz 4 cylinders with no engine and tuning problems..bht jts giving me pathetic 7..8 km in city without some a.c !

  • Pakistan petrol is the worst in the world cuz of low octane ? And wrongly stated. USA most people use 87 octane! And modern cars aren’t made for this. What do you mean modern? Modern cars have knock sensors in them that controls the detonation. Only use recommended octane for cars as stated by the manufacturer. 99% of cars in Pakistan will Work fine with 87 octane. A Lexus BMW Mercedes etc need 91 Minimum but will also work JUST FINE on 87 because of the sensors. It will just get less mileage. But if you putting high octane in your mehran Corolla civic etc you are just throwing your money away.

    As far as people selling mixed petrol That is criminal contamination fraud. The petrol Itself is fine it’s the people selling it who are bad.

    • I have a 1300CC vitz car (model 2007), and it gives more mileage on Hi Octane, as compared to usual patrol.

      When I fill tank for Rs. 2500 with usual patrol, it give me some 370 KMs, but when I fill tank for Rs. 2500 with HOBC, it gives me around 420 KMs.

      So definitely 87 RON patrol isn’t ideal for even small CC cars

      • 1300CC is small CC car??? majority in Pakistan uses below 1000 CC cars. and hi-Octane is best no doubt. but for vehicles need it.

    • Of course it is. Most people in the US use high octane. The whole world has moved to above 90 RON. Do you mean to say the whole world is wrong but you are right?
      Knock sensors do change the ignition timing, but that means the impact is reduced and thats it. You want a smooth running engine. Appropriate RON level is a must then.

    • In multan normal premium fuel is not of good quality as i have experienced all companies..can i put high octane in my 1000cc vitz 4 cylinders it is giving vbad mileage on petrol and knocking as well ?

    • RON (Research Octane Number) and “Octane” are two different things. 87 octane is equal to 91 RON.

  • I’ve got 2000 year Toyota and I put 95 ULP in it as it gives good mileage and good health to the engine of the car. Much appreciate the topic you’ve shed the light on.

    PS: I get ULP 95 from BP, Australia.

    • The Australian-market corolla runs perfectly fine on 91 as well…95 will give you better mileage and slightly more power but it’s also more expensive by about 11c/lt isn’t it? I get 95 in my Aurion as well…98 doesn’t give me much better mileage than 95, but 95 is much better than 91…

  • Every car manufacturer recommends which fuel type to use. Check your car manual. Toyota recommends Ron 91 for my Corolla. So although 95 is also available here but I use 91 as per Toyota recommendation.

  • that is why new japanese cars model like vitz or passo start getting engine issues just after few years in Pakistan.

    • Hmm, no wonder my five year old Japanese make Suzuki WagonR has lately started guzzling petrol.

    • So normal premium fuel is not good for vitz 1000cc 4 cylinders ? And should we use hi ocatane for vitz 1000cc as it has knocking issues ?

  • The diesel we are using is also of lowest quality and being used only in Pakistan and Somalia.

  • The reason you people get higher mileage on your Mehran and/or regular “Soozooki, Haunda and Taoyota” cars because the regular petrol is already sub standard and you can imagin about Hi octane being sold here in Pakistan. There is no way a regular car can run better on Hi-octane but running it on hi octane, it can decrease your car efficiency on every level. I agree with Abdul Wahab here. It’s just you do what you people are told by your road corner “ustad”. It is sad to see people blindly following what their “ustad” says to them. Once my AC guy redirected the ac fan wiring to “run all the time” and said your AC will be cool all the time. I had to get it to default because your car engine needs to at certain temperature and if you’re blowing air to cool it down your engine is gone before time and this is the case with your fuel system too. Better performance on Hi Octane for regular cars (whether they are in Pakistan or anywhere) is a myth, got this off your brains.

    • Em from multan and regualr available here in pumps is of bad quality as it gives bad mileage and knocking issues as well..i own vitz 1000cc 4 cyl..and using hioctane reduced knocking as should i not use hioctane ?

  • how come u add jet fuel which is very similar to diesel and also made from kerosene? u cant mix it unless if its ethanol like in US most of the pump are mixed with E10 with regular fuel

  • Its just that we Pakistani’s never had any awareness abt the same even we never drove our attention towards it….thanks for sharing useful contents …good job

  • Petrol in Pakistan isn’t necessarily bad due to low octane…it’s highly contaminated. The sulphur and particulate contaminant levels in our fuel are insanely high compared to other countries.

  • Why do i feel like im browsing pakwheels instead of propak nowadays ? :D

  • Very well written article!

    And the good news finance minister Ishaq Dar just announced that government is upgrading regular petrol to 92 RON from 1st september :)

  • Thank you Mr adil
    I was Really shocked to see u article. it was best description of the situation in Pakistan.
    one thing that i want to highlight, the proposal by shell was quite good but unfortunately rejected by ministry of petroleum stating the blind excuse of “mistrust”. If for a moment we supposed it is true, the question arises who has created this ” mistrust” .Again the government is responsible because govt failed to keep proper inspection and accountability of the concern companies. this leads to the zero confidence of public on govt matters.

  • Wow! so this is the standard of Pakistani petrol, shame on govt. and petrol companies..

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