Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposes lower sulfur content Tier 3 fuel, starting 2017

Niels Tholen - 2 April 2013

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a new, Tier 3, fuel standard to be implemented across the U.S.A. and based upon the current CARB fuel standard. This move would put the U.S.A. in line with the European Euro VI and Japanese fuel standards, which are at 10 ppm sulfur content compared with the U.S. 15 ppm fuel standard (excluding California). The legislation is proposed to be phased in from 2017, with the process being completed by 2021.

The proposal has been praised by car manufacturers, as it helps them achieve even lower emission levels. By 2025, the vehicle fleet is expected to achieve a fuel economy of 54.5 mpg, a requirement likely to cost carmakers around $200 billion.

By 2030, the EPA estimates that the proposed cleaner fuel rules will annually prevent up to 2,400 premature deaths, 23,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children, 3,200 hospital admissions and asthma-related emergency room visits, and 1.8 million lost school days, work days and days when outdoor activities would be restricted due to high air pollution. Total health-related benefits in 2030 will be between $8 billion and $23 billion annually, EPA estimates. Bob Perciasepe, EPA acting administrator, said: "The Obama administration has taken a series of steps to reinvigorate the auto industry and ensure that the cars of tomorrow are cleaner, more efficient and saving drivers money at the pump, and these common-sense cleaner fuels and cars standards are another example of how we can protect the environment and public health in an affordable and practical way. "

The American Petroleum Institute (API), and the American Fuel & Petroleum Manufacturers (AFPM) had said in a letter to EPA in 2011 that the rules could initially require "capital investment costs of $10 to $17 billion or, when combined with operating costs, result in recurring annual costs between $5 and $13 billion. These impacts translate to a cost increase between 12 and 25 cents per gallon of gasoline produced." The study, Potential supply and cost impacts of lower sulfur, lower RVP gasoline which was conducted by Baker & O'Brien Inc for API, also projects that the additional economic pressure would likely cause four to seven refineries to shut down.

The EPA is also considering whether a 15 ppm sulfur standard would be appropriate for CNG / LPG fuels and how this could be achieved.

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