Australia Cuts Sulfur Content in Transport Fuels

CANBERRA, Australia, July 26, 2004 (ENS) - Sulfur in unleaded gasoline and in diesel will be limited within five years under tough new fuel standards announced by Australia's new Environment Minister Senator Ian Campbell. He says the cuts will make Australian transport fuels among the cleanest in the world.

First to take effect will be the new diesel standard. Currently 500 parts per million (ppm), it will be cut to 50 ppm on January 1, 2006 and capped at 10 ppm from January 1, 2009.

It will take longer to limit the sulfur in premium unleaded gasoline, or petrol, but the cuts will be steep. From January 1, 2008, it will be limited to 50 ppm down from 150 ppm now.


Australia's new Environment Minister Ian Campbell (Photo courtesy Office of the Minister)
"These reductions are among the final steps of the government's strategy to dramatically reduce urban air pollution," Campbell said. "Pollution from particulate matter will be immediately reduced by five percent nationally, and reductions are expected to increase as new vehicle technologies come on stream, designed to run on low sulfur diesel."

Lower sulfur will mean better air quality in Australia's cities and towns and help two million asthmatics and many other Australians who suffer from breathing problems.

The minister estimates that by 2020, cleaner fuel standards will have saved A$3.4 billion in hospital and medical costs.

"These reductions will have an immediate impact on particle emissions from the existing vehicle fleet and, just as importantly, will hasten the introduction of the next generation of cleaner vehicle engines and emission controls," said Campbell.

The Australian Institute of Petroleum (AIP) said Thursday that the new quality standards for petrol and diesel will improve urban air quality.

AIP Executive Director Dr. John Tilley said, "AIP members support the goal of improved urban air quality through appropriate fuel quality changes and the introduction of new, cleaner and more efficient vehicle engine technologies."

The new standards were recommended by the Fuel Standards Consultative Committee, made up of representatives of consumers, industry, environmental organizations and state governments. This approach won over the industry to tool up for the new standards even though the 500 ppm standard for sulfur in diesel has only been in effect since January 1, 2003, about half the previous level.

"AIP members acknowledge the consultative approach taken by the Australian government on this initiative, involving a coordinated approach across the motor vehicle and fuels industries," said Tilley.


Rush hour in Australia (Photo courtesy AIP)
AIP member companies expect to invest up to $2 billion in refinery upgrades to progressively meet the petrol and diesel standards legislated for this decade, including currently mandated standards and the standards just announced.

But the government is helping the industry to cope with the rapid changes. "In May last year, the government announced incentives to help refiners and importers offset the increased cost of producing cleaner fuels and making lower sulfur fuel available more quickly," Campbell said. The incentives will be provided for a two year period before the new fuel standards take effect.

"By announcing the new standards with a long lead time," said Campbell, "the government is providing certainty to the Australian petroleum refining and motor vehicle industries in their future investment strategies."

Access to the latest technology is expected to help Australia's vehicle manufacturers to remain internationally competitive and open the Australian market to the newest vehicles from overseas.

"This decision builds on the Howard Government's achievements in mandating cleaner fuels, which include the establishment of the first national fuel standards under the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000 and the banning of leaded petrol from January 2002, said Campbell, campaigning in advance of a federal election that is soon to be announced.

An election will likely be called in September or October, according to Treasurer Peter Costello, but Prime Minister John Howard has declined to set the date, and says Parliament will sit in August as planned.