|Maximum gasoline sulfur limits. Click to enlarge.|
A trio of European countries and one from South America made major strides in reducing their levels of sulfur content in gasoline, allowing them to advance in the annual global ranking published by Hart Energy’s International Fuel Quality Center (IFQC). Montenegro leaped 48 slots, from 89th place in 2010 to 41st in this year’s ranking. Colombia jumped 40 spots, from 98th to 58th, while Croatia moved up from 57th to 37th and Russia improved from 60th to 51st.
The United States placed 46th, down two slots. If California qualified as a country, it would have ranked 40th.
The increased pressure to further focus on vehicle emissions and fuel efficiency performance has driven the US and other countries to evaluate the adequacy of their fuel and vehicle standards. A 10 ppm average gasoline sulfur limit is likely in the US by the fall of 2015, while we expect Beijing to implement a 10 ppm limit as early as 2012.—Kiuru-Griffith, Executive Director of IFQC
Germany, the first to implement the lowest sulfur level of 10 ppm in 2003, remains atop the ranking, followed by Japan and a six-country tie for third place among Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary and Sweden. China was 54th, but the cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou have lower sulfur limits. By themselves, those cities would rank 43rd, just above the US.
Sulfur is found naturally in crude oil. As a result, it passes into refined products, such as transportation fuels, when crude is processed at the refinery. When sulfur is emitted into the air during fuel combustion, its compounds can have negative environmental and health effects. Environmental damage to forests, crops and water supplies can also result from long-term, high-sulfur emissions. Gasoline desulfurization improves engine efficiency and leads to reduced overall emissions of sulfur, as well as hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and toxics such as benzene.
Industry and policy makers around the world have emphasized the importance of reducing sulfur limits in fuels for more than a decade, but variations remain. Overall, the majority of countries are moving toward low-sulfur, cleaner fuels.
Dramatic gasoline sulfur reduction, and the automotive emissions improvements which result, remain one of the great industrial accomplishments of the global transportation sector this century. Credit belongs equally to global refiners, worldwide automakers and government policy leaders for ushering in these major improvements – they set the stage for clean gasoline and diesel fuel to remain the primary transportation fuels for decades to come. We can look forward to more fuel and air quality achievements next year from implementation plans already scheduled in growing economies such as Brazil and China.—Frederick L. Potter, Executive Vice President of Hart Energy