Car manufacturers call for sulphur-free petrol

Oil companies have been told by the world's vehicle manufacturers that they must not delay in re-engineering refining operations to supply sulphur-free petrol and diesel.

“It puts oil refiners in a tough position,” Lance Roberts of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers told edie, “because a global body [of vehicle manufacturers] has got together and said that the most efficient method of improving air emissions is to clean the fuel.”

The call for sulphur-free fuel is contained within the updated World-Wide Fuel Charter, which defines sulphur-free fuel as containing between five and 10 parts per million (ppm) of sulphur.

Roberts points to America’s TIER 2 emission regulations for vehicles running on gasoline, tabled last December, as an example of the tightening air quality legislation that has led car manufacturers to request sulphur-free fuel. Tougher US standards for diesel vehicles are expected within weeks.

“The refiners have said that the cost of changing their refining processes [to meet TIER 2] will be very high and that spot shortages could result,” says Roberts.

But vehicle manufacturers are insistent that introduction of sulphur-free fuels should be not delayed. Announcing the revised World-wide Fuels Charter, the four associations of manufacturers state that “sulphur levels of both gasoline and diesel fuel must be addressed to enable future motor vehicle technologies to meet new requirements. These advanced technologies include nitrogen oxides [NOx] traps, particulate matter traps and direct injection engines. ‘Lean NOx’ and NOx Adsorber’ catalyst systems … are intolerant of sulphur.”

Although the cost and timetable for sulphur-free fuel are the main sticking points, the need for cleaner fuels is well known to refiners. “They’ve had the MTBE additive issue here in the States, so they’ve got their fingers on the pulse of environmental legislation,” says Roberts. “They have to.”

The four signators of the the World-wide Fuel Charter are:

  • European Automobile Manufacturers Association
  • Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
  • Engine Manufacturers Association
  • Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association

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