Petrol stations to capture and recycle fumes
In an effort to reduce urban pollution Government is proposing new laws which could force large petrol stations to install equipment to capture the fumes that waft away as motorists fill up their tanks.Most such systems work in a manner akin to a giant extractor fan, sucking up the fumes and returning them to the petrol stocks to be reused.
Small rural stations will be exempt from the regulations, on the basis that the additional expense might make them unviable and lead to closures and the Government considers that many of them provide valuable amenities for their local communities such as shops and post office services.
On Monday, November 7 Ben Bradshaw, Minister for Local Environment Quality, published consultation proposals to control the escaping fumes from service stations.
The fumes, when combined with nitrous oxide, form a key ingredient of summer smog in cities in calm sunny weather.
Defra is now seeking views on whether large service stations in the UK should fit equipment - known as Petrol Vapour Recovery stage II controls - to control the fumes.
According to Government statistics the measures being proposed would help capture 16,000 tonnes of volatile organic compounds a year from 2010 - over half of the current emissions from petrol stations.
Ben Bradshaw said that the measures would help to improve the quality of the air by limiting the chemical fumes can lead to smog, health problems and damage to trees, vegetation and crops.
"Petrol fumes from service stations contribute to air pollution and lead to smog in warm weather," he said.
"Fitting the new equipment that can capture these fumes will help to cut risks to public health and the environment."
"We propose limiting the measure to larger service stations to protect the viability of small stations which are often located in rural areas.
"These rural service stations provide additional services to rural communities, such as shops and Post Offices."
The proposals do not apply to diesel fuel.
Emissions from service stations contribute approximately 3% of total UK VOC emissions.
Emissions from the fuel station sector are expected to decline to around 30 kilotonnes by 2010 due to the projected trend in UK fuel sales.
By Sam Bond