Dubai: As of January 1, 2010, around 450 service stations nationwide will implement the conversion of their measurement units from the imperial gallon to the litre.
The action is said to be the first of several that will unify the measurement units used across the country.
Among the other measurements to be converted to the metric system are the yard and foot and the ounce.
"We are fulfilling our requirement under the World Trade Organisation by using the internationally recognised standard unit," said Dr Rashid Ahmad Bin Fahad, Minister of Environment and Water and Chairman of the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA), the body responsible for carrying out the UAE Cabinet's decision to shift to the International System of Units.
"The oil companies are trading in litres, but they're selling in gallons inside the UAE," Bin Fahad said. "So this is going to make trade a lot easier now."
The major oil companies in the country welcomed the new law, as talks to make the transition began in 2007.
"I was personally very excited about the conversion," said Ziad Al Qufaidi, CEO of Emirates Petroleum Product Company (Eppco).
"We're one of five countries around the world that still uses the imperial gallon — something that has been diminished a long time ago. So I think it's about time to unify the measurement units," he said.
On Sunday dispenser gauges with the litre measurement were installed at one of Adu Dhabi National Oil Company's (Adnoc) service stations to test the transition, said Adullah Saleh Al Daheri, General Director of Adnoc's distribution.
"It was very successful and we're very confident to move on with the remaining part of this process," said Al Daheri.
Disruption in service at some gas stations is to be expected, said Mohammad Badri, Deputy Director-General at ESMA. "Some of the gas stations will be closed for maybe an hour, two, three or maybe a whole day," he said. "However, we've made sure that if one the gas stations is closed, the other one within the same line will be open, so there is coordination between all of the different companies."
ESMA has given the oil companies a time frame of four months to completely implement the Cabinet's decision.
"A lot of the preliminary work has already been done," said Al Qufaidi. Under Emirates National Oil Company (Enoc) and Eppco, 175 stations are scheduled to be completely converted to the litre by April 1, he said.
To be fully equipped with new dispenser gauges, every service station would need about Dh50,000, said Bin Fahad.
Although the government is not providing financial support to the oil companies to buy the new gauges, the companies say the unification of the measurement units in the country is worth the investment.
Enoc and Eppco will invest about Dh10 million to implement the conversion of all its 175 stations, said Al Qufaidi.
"In the end it's a mandate," said Al Daheri. "And we'll do everything we can to abide by the law."
Oil prices will not be affected by the shift from gallon to litre. Considering that one gallon makes 4.546 litres, oil prices will be as follows:
91 Octane Dh1.26 per litre
95 Octane Dh1.37 per litre
98 Octane Dh1.48 per litre