Sulphur-free fuel seen increasing CO2 emissions

Response to EU consultation on post-2005 sulphur limit highlights gaps in knowledge

Early introduction of sulphur-free fuel in the EU is likely to cause a net increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions because greater energy consumption by oil refineries will outweigh higher vehicle fuel efficiency, according to several responses to a European Commission consultation paper on future EU rules on sulphur content in fuel (ENDS Daily 25 May).

The Commission's environment directorate released the responses on Tuesday. It is expected to make new proposals in December on whether the EU should restrict sulphur in road fuels beyond the 50 parts per million (ppm) limit that will take effect in 2005. The consultation was launched after Germany called for the EU to require sulphur-free fuel - taken to be 10ppm - from 2007 (ENDS Daily 21 December 1999). Car makers have long made similar demands (ENDS Daily 28 April).

Most responses emphasise a lack of conclusive data proving the case for or against sulphur-free fuel before 2010, while previous clashes between Europe's oil and car industries re-emerge from responses to the consultation by their respective trade associations Europia and Acea.

Car makers say early introduction of sulphur-free fuels would enable direct injection or lean burn engines now being developed to increase their economy by up to 5%. Oil firms say that new engine technologies don't inherently need sulphur-free fuels and question whether such a move would make any significant difference to air quality.

In their submissions, both the Dutch and British governments conclude that sulphur-free fuel would likely lead to a net increase in CO2 emissions if introduced too early because oil refinery emissions would rise several years before significant numbers of cars able to achieve maximum fuel efficiency with sulphur-free fuels were introduced. A neutral or positive CO2 balance would only be achieved once these achieved at least a 20% share of the EU car fleet, according to the Dutch response.

The Commission also asked respondents to consider whether fuels with sulphur content lower than 50 ppm would have an impact on any other environmentally-related fuel parameters. A possible increase in the use of the oxygenate fuel additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) was mentioned by several respondents.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111;

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