Red fuel laundering

Avoiding payment of duties

large tanks in a warehouse

Fuel laundering plant removing red dye © HM Revenue and Customs.

A fuel laundering plant in County Armagh (Northern Ireland) was exposed by officers in 2007. The plant was designed to illegally remove red dye from diesel fuel. It processed 105,000 litres of red fuel each week - enough to fill the tank of approximately 2,000 cars. When the plant was dismantled officers seized 3 vehicles, 25,000 litres of laundered fuel, tanks and processing equipment.

For agricultural use red diesel can be bought legally at a lower rate of duty. It is therefore cheaper than 'normal' fuel. This makes it attractive to launder, remove the red dye, and sell at a profit.

Acid is used to remove the red dye during laundering. But the process is not very efficient and fuel containing high levels of acid is produced. An acidic sludge is produced as a by-product and car engines are destroyed. There is a disastrous environmental impact when the sludge is dumped in drums, or poured on to the land.