Low sulfur diesel fuel (S ≤ 500 ppm) has been available nationwide since 2004, followed by China III fuel (S ≤ 350 ppm) which became available nationwide in 2011.

While regulation GB 17691-2005 [2881] specifies emission limits for China III-V stages, it includes fuel specifications for the China III stage only. Faced with the lack of official fuel standards to ensure availability of ultra low sulfur fuels that are necessary to enable emission technologies at the China IV/V stages, the Ministry of Environmental Protection adopted regulation GWKB 1.2-2011 which regulates sulfur and polyaromatics as toxics. Selected specifications and availability status are shown in Table 1.

Table 1
Selected Specifications of Diesel Fuel for Motor Vehicles
China IIIChina IVChina V
National Fuel StandardGB 19147–2009GB 19147–2013
Municipal/Regional Fuel StandardsGB 19147–2009DB11/239-2007 (Beijing)
DB31/428-2009 (Shanghai)
DB44/695-2009 (Guangdong)
DB11/239-2012 (Beijing)
Sulfur content, mg/kg≤ 350
(GB 17691-2005)
≤ 50
(GWKB 1.2-2011)
≤ 10
(GWKB 1.2-2011)
Cetane number, min-max50-53
(GB 17691-2005)
(GB 19147-2009)
Polyaromatic hydrocarbons, % (m/m)3-11
(GB 17691-2005)
≤ 11
(GWKB 1.2-2011)
≤ 11
(GWKB 1.2-2011)
≤ 11
(GWKB 1.2-2011)
Implementation Date2013.07 (nationwide)2015.01 (nationwide)
Beijing: 2008
Shanghai: 2009
Shenzen: 2009
Guangzhou: 2009
2018.01 (nationwide)
Beijing: 2012.06
Shanghai: 2013.12

There are two national diesel fuel standards in China, GB 252 and GB 19147, as well as several municipal/provincial diesel fuel standards. For on-road applications, GB 19147-2009 was implemented in stages throughout the country starting in January 2010. GB 19147-2013 for China IV fuel was published in February 2013.

For other applications such as trailers, locomotives with internal combustion engines, construction machinery, vessels, generator sets, 3-wheelers and low-speed trucks, GB 252-2011 is available. GB 252-2011 sulfur limit is 0.2% until June 30, 2013 and 0.035% starting July 1, 2013.

In 2008, the maximum fuel sulfur limit in several cities was set at 50 ppm (e.g., DB11/239-2007). In 2012, the maximum sulfur limit in Beijing was set at 10 ppm (DB11/239-2012).

In February 2013, the State Council issued a timetable for its program to upgrade fuel quality nationwide. By the end of 2014, automotive diesel fuel sulfur will be set at 50 ppm (China IV or National IV) and by the end of 2017, sulfur limits for automotive gasoline and automotive diesel will be 10 ppm maximum (China V or National V). Diesel fuel standards for China V are required to be issued by July 2013.