Denmark to switch to low-sulphur diesel

Environmental Protection Agency recommends cut to 50ppm, anticipating possible EU limit

Denmark looks set to join European countries moving unilaterally to cut sulphur levels in diesel fuel, following a report from the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Danish-refined diesel currently contains around 500 parts per million (ppm) sulphur, but the EPA has recommended a switch to 50ppm. This would bring diesel refined in Denmark down to a level expected to be introduced as the EU norm not before 2005.

The Danish parliament's environment planning committee requested the report last December, following calls for lower sulphur diesel to be made available by HT, Copenhagen's city bus company.

According to the study, introduction of 50ppm sulphur diesel would cut emissions of fine particulates by 13%. The reduction would be 26% if all city buses used low-sulphur fuel. Diesel with no more than 50ppm sulphur would also enable vehicles to use "continuous regenerating trap" filters, which could reduce particulate emissions by up to 90%, the study concludes. Installation of catalytic converters capable of cutting emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) would also become possible.

According to the report, the Danish oil industry should be able to produce the low-sulphur diesel without investing in new equipment. Extra refining costs of DKr60-90 (Ecu8-12) per thousand litres are expected. "That would appear to be reasonably possible," Flemming Ludvigsen of the Danish Petroleum Industry Association told ENDS Daily. However, he warned that "the actual extent of new plant and changes is unknown yet."

The EPA is pushing for a switch to low-sulphur diesel to be supported through the creation of a tax incentive for refiners. This would be the "most realistic way to introduce this," Erik Iversen of the EPA told ENDS Daily, pointing to experience in neighbouring Sweden.

Since 1993, Sweden has had a tax incentive for diesel on the market with only 10ppm sulphur. Its tax differential at SKr52 (Ecu6) per thousand litres has made it possible for the Swedish oil industry to produce the sulphur economically, according to the Swedish Petroleum Institute (SPI). The fuel now has a market share of over 90%, according to SPI managing director Tommy Nordin. "Our politicians wanted it and our customers wanted it and we had no problems to make the investments to go ahead with it," Mr. Nordin said, adding Sweden is the only country to have such low-sulphur diesel.

Following publication of the Danish EPA's report, discussions on its recommendations are expected to begin in parliament and between the environment and taxation ministries this summer.

Follow Up:
Danish EPA, tel: +45 32 66 01 00; Danish Petroleum Industry Association, +45 33 11 30 77; Swedish Petroleum Institute, tel: +46 8 667 0925.

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