1 February 2007

European Commission proposed the long expected new standards for the quality of transportation fuels. The proposal sets a schedule for mandatory introduction of ultra-low sulfur diesel (10 ppm S) for highway, nonroad, and inland marine applications. For petrol (gasoline) fuels, the proposal increases the allowable content of ethanol. The new standards will also address climate change by setting a 10% life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for fuel suppliers.

The proposal aims to revise the 1998 fuel quality directive [98/70/EC] which sets common EU specifications for petrol, diesel and gasoil used in road vehicles, inland waterway barges and non-road mobile machinery such as locomotives, earth moving machinery and tractors.

Low-Carbon Fuels. The revised directive will introduce an obligation for fuel suppliers to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that their fuels cause over their life-cycle, i.e. when they are refined, transported and used. From 2011, suppliers will have to reduce emissions per unit of energy by 1% a year from 2010 levels. This will result in a 10% cut by 2020. This will cut emissions by 500 million tons of CO2 by 2020—an equivalent to the total combined emissions of Spain and Sweden today.

This obligation is expected to promote further development of low-carbon fuels, including “second generation” biofuels, and other measures to reduce emissions from the fuel production chain. It is a part of the effort to ensure that the fuel sector contributes to achieving the EU’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.

Diesel Fuel. The proposal mandates new sulfur limit for diesel fuels on the following schedule:

  • Highway fuels: 10 ppm from 31 December 2008 (currently: 50 ppm with availability of 10 ppm fuels, and provisional 10 ppm requirement from 2009)
  • Non-road fuels: 10 ppm from 31 December 2009 (currently: 1000 ppm from 2008)
  • Inland waterways fuels: 300 ppm from 31 December 2009; and 10 ppm from 31 December 2011 (currently: 1000 ppm from 2008)

The proposal also reduces the content of polyaromatic hydrocarbons in diesel fuel to 8% (m/m) from 2009, down from the current 11% specification.

Petrol. To enable a higher volume of biofuels to be used in petrol, a separate petrol blend will be established with a higher permitted content of oxygen-containing additives (oxygenates), including up to 10% ethanol (up from the current 5% limit). The different petrol blends will be clearly marked to avoid fuelling vehicles with incompatible fuel. To compensate for an increase in evaporative emissions that will result from greater use of ethanol, the Commission will put forward a proposal for the mandatory introduction of vapor recovery equipment at filling stations.

Source: European Commission (press release | background documents)