Over the course of the past 30 years, pollution control experts around the world have come to realise that cleaner fuels are a critical component of an effective clean air strategy. In recent years, this understanding of the critical role of fuels has deepened and spread to most regions of the world. Fuel quality is now seen as not only necessary to eliminate or reduce certain pollutants, such as lead, but also as a precondition for the introduction of many important vehicle emission control technologies, such as catalytic converters and diesel particulate filters. Therefore, in order to achieve cleaner urban air quality, a holistic, integrated approach is required that involves the introduction of cleaner fuels that enable the introduction of cleaner vehicle technology, together with other measures such as traffic management schemes and car sharing.
Clean fuels implementation
SAPIA played an integral role in the development of the new fuel specifications (Clean Fuels I) that were introduced in 2006 in the form of regulations under the Petroleum Products Act and revised SANS specifications relating to petrol and diesel. These new petrol specifications prohibited the addition of lead in unleaded petrol, but allowed the use of other metals, such as manganese and phosphorus in metal-containing unleaded petrol (lead replacement petrol) to cater for the older vehicles that might suffer from valve seat recession with the removal of lead from petrol. The diesel specifications required the sulphur levels in diesel to drop from a maximum of 3 000ppm to 500ppm, with a niche grade of 50ppm being introduced. This resulted in an improvement in the diesel exhaust emissions.
Due to major process changes that needed to take place in the refineries and the timing of the introduction of the new fuels, certain fuel supply disruptions were experienced. Lessons need to be learned from these experiences so that similar supply disruptions do not occur with the introduction of new specification fuels in the future.
Regulations regarding the introduction of Clean Fuels II were gazetted in June 2012 which indicated it would come into operation on 1 July 2017. These regulations, among other things, require that sulphur levels in both petrol and diesel be reduced to 10ppm. The regulations also require other specifications to conform to such as those contained in the national standards for petrol and diesel. These specifications are currently being finalised. The target date of July 2017 has been postponed to a date to be determined in the future, once various aspects relating to the financial implications of producing the cleaner fuels have been finalised. In the meantime, in order to provide cleaner fuels for those new technology vehicles that require this fuel, initiatives are being investigated to determine whether it is possible to bring in fuels with certain upgraded specifications at an earlier date.
SAPIA has requested the DOE to rescind the regulations pertaining to the implementation of cleaner fuels by 1 July 2017. The reason for this is that the policy uncertainty generated by the delay in a decision to implement cost recovery has resulted in all work at refineries to convert to cleaner fuels being halted. This means that the oil refining fleet in South Africa will not have progressed with the necessary upgrades to implement cleaner fuels by 1 July 2017.
In 2015, the DOE and SAPIA agreed to establish a joint task team to consider various outstanding issues related to cost recovery for cleaner fuels upgrades at the refineries. The major objective of the work would be to look at outstanding issues related to cost recovery so that an informed decision can be made by government supported by the oil industry on cost recovery and the way forward. Substantial work has been done during 2015 looking at primarily the environmental impact of cleaner fuels, interaction with other government policy objectives, potential methods of implementation of a cost recovery mechanism and the impact on the current refining fleet should cleaner fuels implementation be delayed. The work is nearing completion and the final report should be available in 2016.
History of the development of clean fuels in South Africa
1920s – The process of introducing cleaner fuels into the South African market started with the reduction, and finally removal, of lead in petrol and the reduction of sulphur levels in diesel.
1920s – Lead, in the form of lead alkyl, added to petrol to raise the octane number and prevent engine ‘knock’ which is the uncontrolled combustion of the last part of the fuel/air mixture in the combustion chamber.
1970s – Concern over the increasing recognition of the health effects of airborne lead eventually resulted in successive governments banning the use of lead additives in petrol.
1970s – Lead removal process started in Japan, USA and Canada.
1986 – Lead levels in petrol were reduced from 0.836gPb/l to 0.60gPb/l in South Africa.
1996 – Unleaded petrol available throughout South Africa.
2001 – Department of Minerals and Energy initiated discussions on the first round of fuel specification changes, with the establishment of a multi-stakeholder group.
2002 – Diesel sulphur was reduced from 5 500ppm to 3 000ppm.
2005 – Reduction in sulphur in ULP petrol from 1 000ppm to 500ppm.
2006 – Leaded road fuel was finally banned in South Africa in January 2006.
2006 – Diesel sulphur was further reduced to 500ppm with a niche grade of 50ppm also being introduced in a large part of the country. The sulphur level of ULP was reduced from 1 000ppm to 500ppm at the time. This allowed Euro 2 type vehicle emission standards to be achieved.
2010 – SAPIA presented Minister Peters with a proposal for new, cleaner fuel specifications in January. This document contains results of work conducted over an 18-month period by independent consultants and an oil industry team.
2011 – DOE published draft amendment regulations regarding petroleum products specifications and standards in October. SAPIA provided feedback on the draft regulations in December.
2011 – SAPIA commissioned KPMG to undertake a study on the impact of funding options of refinery upgrades to Clean Fuels II standards. Findings were submitted to DOE and National Treasury to assist in the determination of a suitable cost recovery mechanism.
2012 – DOE published amendment regulations regarding petroleum products specifications and standards on 1 June.
2013 – Finalisation of the new clean fuels diesel specification through the SABS process. The petrol specifications required extended discussion during the year to reach an agreement on volatility and metal additive specifications.
2013 – SAPIA held a number of discussions with DOE and National Treasury in an attempt to finalise the cost-recovery mechanism for the production and distribution of clean fuels.
2014 – Finalisation of both the petrol and diesel CFI and CFII fuel specifications under the auspices of SABS.
2014 – DOE confirmation of their proposal to delay the July 2017 CFII implementation date.
2014 – Ongoing uncertainty regarding the determination of a cost-recovery mechanism for the major capital investments required to provide CFII.
2015 – SAPIA requested DOE to rescind the regulations pertaining to the implementation of cleaner fuels by 1 July 2017 due to policy uncertainty generated by the delay in a decision to implement cost recovery. Policy uncertainty has resulted in work being halted to convert to cleaner fuels at refineries. This means that the oil refining fleet in South Africa will not have progressed with the necessary upgrades to implement cleaner fuels by 1 July 2017.
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