EU oil, car, firms move closer on fuel quality

Europia proposes international forum to discuss development of cleaner vehicles

Europe's oil and car industries are attempting to narrow their differences over how best to reduce vehicle pollution - although the two remain divided over benchmarks for cleaner fuel and in particular over appropriate limits on sulphur content in petrol.

The European petroleum industry association, Europia, called on Friday for wide-ranging discussions on future developments in vehicle design between all interested parties, meeting in an international forum later this spring. The EU car makers' group, Acea, has provisionally indicated that it will consider the invitation positively.

Europia said in a letter to Acea that factors such as engine durability, fuel economy, testing methodology and driveability must be considered along with environmental considerations. "We are both interested in supporting our joint customers," Europia's John Price told ENDS Daily. "You can't use fuel without a car, and you can't run a car without fuel."

Europia's initiative responds to the "world wide fuel charter" launched by a coalition of European and international car manufacturers last summer and finalised in December. To the oil industry's horror, the car makers called for a global limit on sulphur levels in petrol of 30 parts per million (ppm) just as the EU was finalising the fuel quality directive developed under the Auto/Oil research programme, a process that was dominated by a row over sulphur limits (ENDS Daily 5 June 1998).

Europia declined to specify exactly what sulphur limits it now believes are appropriate, but ENDS Daily understands that the association is suggesting that sulphur restrictions as tight as 50ppm could be justified. Coincidentally or not, this is the limit value finally decided on last year for both petrol and diesel in the EU's fuel quality directive, effective from 2005 (ENDS Daily 30 June 1998).

Meanwhile, EU car makers association Acea is sticking to its call for a limit of 30ppm, but says that several other demands have been relaxed since the fuel charter's launch last summer. "We've changed specifications for petrol...and ethanol will be tolerated when it is already allowed under pre-existing regulations," says Giovanni Margaria, director for fuels and emissions. "On diesel, we've raised the ceiling for aromatics from 10 to 15% and that for polyaromatics from 1 to 2%."

The charter could be revised again in the future, Mr Margaria said, adding that the Acea technical committee would consider Europia's new proposals at the end of February.

Follow Up:
Europia, tel: +32 2 226 1911; Acea, tel: +32 2 732 5550.

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