The main objective of the initiative is to make sure new fuel processing technologies perform as expected. The fuel processing technologies, which are still at the design stage, are being developed to meet new standards for sulphur in petrol.

The standards, announced in December and expected to be in place by the end of 2000, require US petrol suppliers to reduce the level of sulphur in petrol from 300 parts per million (ppm) to 30 ppm by 2005.

High levels of sulphur in petrol have been linked to increased car pollution because sulphur reduces the effectiveness of catalytic converters.

The initiative also covers low-sulphur diesel, which will require new fuel processing technologies and clean-burning additives to enhance vehicle performance, especially when used with new emission control technologies.

The Energy Department is seeking proposals in any of the following categories:

  • projects that produce ultra-clean fuels from a variety of energy resources – conventional crude oil, petroleum coke, refinery wastes, natural gas, or coal – and that verify the performance of these fuels
  • projects that develop emission control systems and verify their performance in engine tests
  • longer-range projects that could lead to new fuel making processes, components, materials or technologies that refineries and carmakers could incorporate into future fuel, engine, and emission control systems

Candidate fuels could include low-sulphur petrol, diesel or any liquid fuel that enables a vehicle to achieve ultra-low emissions.

The ultra-clean fuels initiative will also address the declining quality of the crude oils. Crude oil produced in the US and in neighbouring countries is becoming increasingly thick and higher in sulphur content, making it more difficult to process into clean-burning fuels.

The initiative will be conducted in conjunction with the ‘Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles’, a government-industry initiative to develop vehicles that are three times more efficient as conventional cars.

The Energy Department intends to make the new funding available in 2000 through 2005 and will require industry partners to share between 35 to 50% of a project’s cost, depending on the type of project. Up to $15 million is available for each project.

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