After an extensive review process, members of the Worldwide Fuel Charter committee are poised to publish the fifth edition of the charter, which will change its fuel-quality recommendations for the first time since 2006.
The first Worldwide Fuel Charter was published in 1998. The objectives of the charter are the following:
• Cleaner fuels for low emission vehicles
• Achieve a cleaner environment
• Global fuels harmonization
• Fulfill customer requirements
Behind this activity are the largest automobile and engine manufacturers in Europe, Japan and the United States represented by the following organizations: European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM), Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) and Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA).
In addition, the following countries are represented in the committee: Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Vietnam and Argentina. The International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA) is also a supporting organization.
Various stakeholders, including fuel producers, were invited to comment on the proposal by February; the committee has reviewed all comments and incorporated some suggested changes. According to Masato Matsuki of Honda R&D Company, Ltd., who spoke at the 19th Annual Fuels & Lubes Asia Conference organized by F&L Asia Ltd., the fifth edition will be released within a few months.
The charter classifies fuels, both gasoline and diesel, by category depending on vehicle emission control. The most significant change in the fifth edition is the introduction of a new fifth level, appropriately called "Category 5," for markets with highly advanced requirements for emission control and fuel efficiency. This level will apply to countries, such as the U.S. and countries within the European Union, that require vehicles and engines to meet the most rigorous fuel economy and emissions standards in the world.
The fifth edition classifies fuels according to the following categories:
• Category I applies to markets with the lowest level of emission controls; for example, markets requiring US Tier 0, EURO I or equivalent.
• Category 2 is for markets with requirements for emission control at US Tier I, EURO 2/II, EURO 3/III or equivalent.
• Category 3 is for markets with more stringent requirements for emission control such as US LEV, California LEV or ULEV, EURO 4/IV, JP 2005 or equivalent.
• Category 4 applies to markets with advanced requirements for emission control, including US Tier 2, US Tier 3 (pending), US 2007/2010 Heavy Duty On-Highway, US Non-Road Tier 4, California LEV II, EURO 4/IV, EURO 5/V, EURO 6/VI, JP 2009 or equivalent. Category 4 fuels enable sophisticated NOx and particulate matter after-treatment technologies.
• Category 5 is for markets with highly advanced requirement for emission control and fuel efficiency – for example, those markets with Category 4 emission standards that also require US 2017 light duty fuel economy, US heavy-duty fuel economy, California LEV III or equivalent emission control and fuel efficiency standards.
Category 5 would raise the minimum research octane number (RON) in gasoline from 90 to 95. Octane number is a standard measure of the performance of a fuel in spark ignition engines. Fuels with a higher octane rating are used in high-compression engines that generally have higher performance.
During his presentation at the 19th Annual Fuels & Lubes Asia Conference, Matsuki predicted that fuel quality and emission control requirements will be even tighter by 2020 in both developed and emerging countries, and he placed high importance on a parallel increase in RON.
"Improvement of fuel quality can be achieved through mutual understanding and cooperation among government, oil and automotive industries," said Matsuki, who is also vice chairman of the fuel and lubricant subcommittee of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA).
"The future direction of fuel quality improvement should be based on ultra-low emission, significant reduction of CO2 and international harmonization. Increasing RON of gasoline and its harmonization is important as well as lowering sulfur," he added.
For diesel fuel, Category 5 introduces a high quality hydrocarbon-only specification that takes advantage of the characteristics of certain advanced biofuels, such as hydrotreated vegetable oil and biomass-to-liquid. Biocomponent is limited to 5% in Categories 1 through 4, but is not allowed in Category 5.
Other changes from the previous edition include a new test method for trace metals -- which can be harmful to engines or affect engine performance -- plus an updated gasoline volatility table and updated biofuels information including ethanol, biodiesel and other alternatives to petroleum-based fuels.
The charter proposes to cap maximum ethanol content in gasoline at 10%, where regulations allow it, but for Categories 1 to 4, the maximum is still 5%. This is at odds with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) position. On June 15, the EPA moved to allow, but not require, the introduction of gasoline into commerce that contains more than 10%, and up to 15%, volume of ethanol for use in model year 2001 and newer light-duty motor vehicles.
The committee has developed two documents, which provide guidelines for both ethanol and biodiesel, published in March 2009. These biofuel guidelines supplement Categories 1 to 4 biofuel requirements. They provide guidelines for E100 for blending in gasoline up to 10% or E10 and B100 (Fatty Acid Methyl Ester or FAME) for blending in diesel fuel up to 5% or B5.
"As countries move toward more stringent vehicle and engine requirements, fuel quality becomes more important in terms of preserving the functionality of vehicles and engines," the committee wrote in remarks about the proposed charter. "Sulfur-free and metal-free fuels remain critical prerequisites for ultraclean and efficient emission control systems. Fuel properties play key roles in vehicle and engine emissions and performance, and the most advanced vehicles and engines require the best fuel quality -- as represented in Category 5 -- to meet their design potential."