Fuel For Thought
January 2018

European Commission proposes new CO2 emission targets

▪ European Commission proposes new CO2 emission targets

The European Commission has proposed new targets for the EU fleet-wide average CO2 emissions of new passenger cars and vans that will apply from 2025 and 2030 respectively, to help accelerate the transition to low- and zero emission vehicles in the European Union. Both for new cars and vans, the average CO2 emissions will have to be 30% lower in 2030, compared to 2021.

ACEA, which represents the 14 Europe-based car, van, truck and bus manufacturers, said it welcomes the fact that the date for the new targets has been set for 2030. “This is consistent with the timings already agreed by the EU heads of states with the 2030 Climate and Energy Framework,” ACEA Secretary General Erik Jonnaert said.

“However, setting an additional target already in 2025 – just a few years after the 2021 targets – does not leave enough time to make the necessary technical and design changes to vehicles, in particular to light commercial vehicles given their longer development and production cycles.” “Clearly, CO2 targets can provide an impetus for innovation in the auto industry, but the current proposal is very aggressive when we consider the low and fragmented market penetration of alternatively-powered vehicles across Europe to date,” he said. In the third quarter, ACEA reported that alternatively powered cars accounted for only 6.2% of total passenger car sales, or 211,635, in the EU. Electrically chargeable vehicles (ECVs) made up 1.6% of all cars sold across the EU.

“The 30% reduction level proposed by the Commission is also overly challenging, going beyond the ambition level set out in the Climate and Energy Framework and in its own 2016 impact assessment, which specifies what is needed to deliver on COP21. In line with this, the European auto industry considers a 20% reduction by 2030 for cars to be achievable at a high, but acceptable, cost,” ACEA’s Jonnaert said. The European Commission said that the proposed CO2 emission reduction targets are based on “sound analysis and broad stakeholder involvement, from NGOs to industry.” “The EU must seize this opportunity and become a global leader, with countries such as the United States and China moving ahead very quickly. To give one example: EU sales of new passenger cars relative to global sales have decreased from 34% before the financial crisis (2008/2009) to 20% today,” the commission said in a statement.

“The proposal establishes ambitious, realistic and enforceable rules to help secure a level playing field between actors in the industry operating in Europe. The package will also put in place a clear direction of travel towards achieving the EU’s agreed commitments under the Paris Agreement and will stimulate both innovation in new technologies and business models, and a more efficient use of all modes for the transport of goods.” The Clean Mobility Package proposal from the European Commission, the European Union’s executive body, includes the following documents:

– New CO2 standards to help manufacturers to embrace innovation and supply low-emission vehicles to the market. The proposal also includes targets both for 2025 and 2030. The 2025 intermediary target ensures that investments kick-start immediately. The 2030 target gives stability and long-term direction to keep up these investments. These targets will help push the transition from conventional combustion-engine vehicles to clean ones.

– The Clean Vehicles Directive to promote clean mobility solutions in public procurement tenders and thereby provide a solid boost to the demand and to the further deployment of clean mobility solutions.

– An action plan and investment solutions for the trans-European deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure. The aim is to increase the level of ambition of national plans, to increase investment, and improve consumer acceptance.

– The revision of the Combined Transport Directive, which promotes the combined use of different modes for freight transport (e.g. lorries and trains), will make it easier for companies to claim incentives and therefore stimulate the combined use of trucks and trains, barges or ships for the transport of goods.

– The Directive on Passenger Coach Services, to stimulate the development of bus connections over long distances across Europe and offer alternative options to the use of private cars, will contribute to further reducing transport emissions and road congestion. This will offer additional, better quality and more affordable mobility options, particularly for people on low income.

– The battery initiative has strategic importance to the EU’s integrated industrial policy so that the vehicles and other mobility solutions of tomorrow and their components will be invented and produced in the EU.

The Clean Mobility proposals will be sent to co-legislators for their approval. The Commission called “on all stakeholders to work closely together to ensure the swift adoption and implementation of these different proposals and measures, so that the benefits for the EU’s industry, businesses, workers and citizens can be maximised and generated as soon as possible.”

▪ EFOA Press Release: CO2 standards for Light Duty Vehicles” High octane fuels to play a major role in reaching EU clean mobility targets

The European Fuel Oxygenates Association (EFOA) welcomes the proposal for revised CO2 standards for new passenger cars and for new light commercial vehicles published by the European Commission, as it marks an important step towards greener mobility in Europe. The Commission’s Impact Assessment recognizes that around 95% of vehicles on Europe's roads still have an internal combustion engine (ICEs), which means that upgrading ICEs and improving the quality of fuels will offer significant benefits.

Firstly, EFOA believes that high quality, high octane fuels combined with high performance engines can play a key role in reducing emissions from passenger cars. For instance, a realistic 7% lower fuel consumption through higher octane would save 20 million tonnes of CO2 per year. EFOA calls upon the European institutions involved in the co-decision process to fully recognise this potential.

This could not only benefit the petrol fleet but also would contribute to the transition towards zero carbon mobility. “Currently, 96.8% of the yearly fleet mileage of electric vehicles is covered by hybrid cars. High octane petrol helps increasing the fuel efficiency and emission reduction potential of hybrid cars, making them a more attractive option. I strongly believe that the Commission’s proposal could be improved to bring about rapid and cost effective emissions reductions in Europe” commented EFOA Secretary General Ewa Abramiuk Lété.

Finally, current transport policy needs a variety of measures and decarbonisation solutions. Giving an equal opportunity to different technologies should be an important part of the future approach, in order to deliver a policy which brings real change to CO2 and air pollution levels. As such, the focus on measuring the tailpipe emissions should be changed in order to fully capture the CO2 emission reduction of vehicles. While EFOA supports legislation which encourages a progress towards low emission transport, we believe that focus on incentives to specific technologies would make emission reduction process much costlier than necessary. It will also miss out on opportunities for more rapid and cost-effective solutions available today.

For more information, please contact Ewa Abramiuk Lété +32 2 67 67 278.

▪ Honda says fuel from Shell, Total, PSO harms engines in Pakistan

Pakistan's state oil and gas regulator said on Thursday it would investigate a complaint that fuel suppliers including local units of Shell and Total as well as Pakistan State Oil (PSO) had added manganese to their gasoline.

Honda Motor Co's Pakistan subsidiary, Honda Atlas Cars (Pakistan) Ltd., filed the complaint, saying the additive appeared to be damaging engines in its vehicles. Manganese can be added to fuel to make it appear to be of a higher quality but it can reduce fuel economy and potentially harm public health due to emissions. Honda's complaint states Pakistani suppliers used the additive to elevate the Research Octane Number (RON) used to grade petroleum and lower quality fuel up to the RON 92 grade required by regulatory standards. "We have received a complaint from Honda, and the relevant department will look into the issue," said Imran Ghaznavi, a spokesman for the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA). The Honda complaint, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, said tests found dangerous levels of manganese in fuel samples from Shell Pakistan Ltd, Total Parco Pakistan Ltd and Pakistan State Oil Company Ltd.

The tests showed levels of manganese of up to 53 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg), while the additive is deemed at a "danger level" at 24 mg/kg, the Honda complaint said. A spokesman for PSO said the company's "products fully adhere to official specifications laid out by the Ministry of Energy" and all products were tested before being released to the market. "Products below official standards are rejected and returned," company spokesman Imran Rana told Reuters. Officials from Shell in Pakistan and London had no immediate comment. Total officials could not immediately be reached. Ilyas Fazil, head of Pakistan's Oil Companies Advisory Council, said on Thursday he had not heard of manganese additives being a problem in the industry. "Other refineries are producing 90 RON, which is slightly lower than 92...pure 92 RON, that is imported," he said.

Pakistan's petroleum sales have spiked in the past two years, rising 10% between 2015 and 2017 and continued growth is expected as Chinese-backed development projects spur the transportation and automotive sectors.

A senior industry official said Toyota Pakistan had not experienced the same issues with their engines but said the company was concerned about high manganese levels in petroleum. "Now that Honda has formally complained they may also follow suit," the official who asked not to be identified told Reuters.

▪ Thai oil clean fuel upgrade to eliminate fuel oil production

(Photo courtesy of Thai Oil)



Thailand’s largest refiner Thai Oil PCL announced that it will stop producing fuel oil from 2022, after completing a USD4 billion refinery upgrade to boost production of clean fuels. The move is a global trend among producers due to the expected decline in demand for fuel oil from the shipping industry following the implementation of MARPOL Annex VI in 2020.

The upgrade will bring Thai Oil’s capacity nearly up to Royal Dutch Shell’s 500,000 barrel per day (bpd) Bukom complex in Singapore, the oil major’s biggest wholly owned plant, while sharpening the Thai refiner’s competitive edge as brand new complexes go onstream in Malaysia and Vietnam. “Competition in the cleaner, low-sulphur fuel space is set to balloon over the coming years, not least due to competition from established refiners in the region as well as completion of upgrades at many of China’s state-owned facilities,” said Peter Lee, oil and gas analyst at BMI Research. Thai Oil plans to increase its refining capacity by 45% to 400,000 bpd in the next five years to turn fuel oil into more valuable low-sulphur products that will help meet growing demand in the region. The upgrade is also designed to increase the refiner’s flexibility to process a wider array of heavier, less expensive crudes. Thai Oil will install a new crude distillation unit (CDU) with a capacity of 200,000-220,000 bpd, after scrapping two older units with a combined capacity of 100,000 bpd.

Thai Oil has started a year-long bidding process for engineering, procurement and construction or EPC contractors. Thai Oil said it expects to make a final investment decision by the third quarter of 2018. Construction will take four years.

Another Thai refiner, Bangchak Petroleum PCL, also plans to debottleneck its refinery by 2020 to boost production by 20,000 bpd, increasing its total capacity to 130,000 bpd and boosting its output of light and middle distillates. The company did not disclose the project’s total cost.

▪ Sasol announces decision to drop U.S. GTL project but sees opportunities in base oil business

(Photo courtesy of Sasol)

Sasol, an international integrated chemicals and energy company, based in South Africa, yesterday unveiled its “refined corporate strategy,” which the company says “sets a clear path for sustainable growth and accelerated shareholder returns.”

“In developing our strategy, we considered both the opportunities and risks we face, informed by developments in the external environment. It is clear that megatrends influential to our business will result in greater demand for chemicals and energy products in key markets we serve,” says Sasol President and CEO Stephen Cornell.

Translating Sasol’s strategy into measurable value for shareholders will comprise two distinct phases. “From now until 2022, Sasol will focus on delivery of the Lake Charles Chemicals Project (LCCP) in the U.S. and the Production Sharing Agreement in Mozambique, while extracting further value from our existing portfolio of diversified assets. In this period we are targeting an improvement in return on invested capital (ROIC) of at least 2% on our financial year 2017 base. This will be achieved through continuous improvement that will encompass various initiatives across our value chain,” says Paul Victor, Sasol’s chief financial Officer. He adds that successful delivery of these initiatives will drive earnings growth and greater efficiency and effectiveness, which in turn, support the earlier delivery of returns to shareholders through an increase in Sasol’s dividend payout to 40% or 2.5 times cover by 2022.

“Beyond 2022, we will focus on building an investment portfolio of smaller to medium-sized organic and inorganic opportunities, in the range of USD 500 million to USD1 billion. This will be directed towards our growth focus areas in specialty chemicals, exploration and production and retail fuels,” Victor says. “In the longer term, we will leverage our investment base with flexibility for greater growth that we will drive through partnerships.”

Sasol announced several key decisions in areas where the company does not believe it can maintain a leading position or deliver strong returns. One of several important announcements was Sasol’s decision not to invest further in greenfield gas-to-liquids (GTL) projects, including its proposed GTL project in the U.S. In January 2015, Sasol announced it was delaying a final investment decision on the project to conserve cash in response to lower oil prices.

“While our current GTL assets are generating good returns and cash flows, the value proposition for Sasol to build new GTL projects is uneconomic against a volatile external environment and structural shift to a low oil price environment.” Cornell adds Sasol will maintain its industry-leading position in Fischer-Tropsch (FT) technology.

“We will continue to work on opportunities to optimise and improve our existing facilities in regard to catalyst performance, product yields and energy efficiency. We also see further opportunities to high-grade the value from our GTL molecules through base oils extraction, and we will continue to license and support our FT technology,” says Cornell.

Sasol has also decided not to invest in any additional crude oil refining capacity. “This decision was informed by the large investments that will be required to meet changing fuel specifications in South Africa and a lack of any clear competitive advantage for Sasol outside our existing position in Secunda,” says Cornell. “While we have a solid foundation business in commodity chemicals and the world-scale LCCP under construction in the U.S., the risk profile to execute such projects alone, in the future, is larger than what Sasol wishes to undertake. Such investments in feedstock-advantaged locations may still be considered, but we will not entertain wholly-owned investments in similar megaprojects, such as the LCCP, going forward.”

In line with enhancing its robust foundation, Sasol will continue to invest in extracting further value from its chemicals facilities in the U.S. and South Africa, while also pursuing commodity chemicals investments where this can support the company’s desire to grow its specialty chemicals portfolio. Sasol’s strategic choices were based on key megatrends and assumptions including global population growth and further urbanisation, the move to even greater efficiency and performance, in all aspects of business, supported by digitalisation and sustained volatility in both oil prices and exchange rates.

▪ Eight energy companies commit to reduce Methane emissions within Natural Gas industry

BP, Eni, ExxonMobil, Repsol, Shell, Statoil, Total and Wintershall have committed to further reduce methane emissions from the natural gas assets they operate around the world. The energy companies also agreed to encourage others across the natural gas value chain – from production to the final consumer – to do the same. The commitment was made as part of wider efforts by the global energy industry to ensure that natural gas continues to play a critical role in helping meet future energy demand while addressing climate change. Since natural gas consists mainly of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, its role in the transition to a low-carbon future will be influenced by the extent to which methane emissions are reduced.

The eight energy companies yesterday signed a Guiding Principles document, which focuses on continually reducing methane emissions; advancing strong performance across gas value chains; improving the accuracy of methane emissions data; advocating sound policies and regulations on methane emissions; and increasing transparency.

“Numerous studies have shown the importance of quickly reducing methane emissions if we’re to meet growing energy demand and multiple environmental goals,” said Mark Radka, head of UN Environment’s Energy and Climate Branch.

“The Guiding Principles provide an excellent framework for doing so across the entire natural gas value chain, particularly if they’re linked to reporting on the emissions reductions achieved.”

The Guiding Principles were developed in collaboration with the Environmental Defense Fund, the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Gas Union, the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative Climate Investments, the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Sustainable Gas Institute, The Energy and Resources Institute, and United Nations Environment.

“Our analysis at IEA shows that credible action to minimise methane emissions is essential to the achievement of global climate goals, and to the outlook for natural gas,” said Tim Gould, head of Supply Division, World Energy Outlook, IEA.

“The commitment by companies to the Guiding Principles is a very important step; we look forward to seeing the results of their implementation and wider application. The opportunity is considerable – implementing all of the cost-effective methane abatement measures worldwide would have the same effect on long-term climate change as closing all existing coal-fired power plants in China.”

▪ SK to build 40,000 bpd desulfurization unit at ulsan refinery

(Photo courtesy of SK)


SK Innovation, South Korea’s largest oil refiner, announced an investment of KRW1 trillion (USD897 million) in a desulfurization unit at its Ulsan refinery, as part of its plan to invest KRW3 trillion (USD2.7 billion) through the end of the year to diversify its product portfolio. “SK Energy, the subsidiary of SK Innovation, held a board of directors meeting on October 31 and decided to invest KRW1 trillion in SK’s Ulsan complex,” the company said.

The decision aligns with an International Maritime Organization (IMO) mandate setting the global limit for sulphur in fuel oil used on board ships at 0.50% m/m (mass by mass) from January 2020. “We will be able to respond more flexibly to the market dynamics of low-sulphur fuel for ships,” the company said, “which is expected to experience an increase in price due to a shortage of supply.”

The 40,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) vacuum residue desulfurisation unit will be able to produce high value-added products, including low-sulphur diesel fuel and naphtha, by processing residual fuel oil. SK Energy has a total refining capacity of 1.115 million bpd, from a combined 840,000 bpd at five crude distillation units (CDUs) in Ulsan and 275,000 bpd at two CDUs in Incheon.

▪ ‘100% pure’ New Zealand tightens petrol and diesel specifications

New Zealand is a country that bases its global reputation on a ‘clean green’ image. Tourism New Zealand’s ‘100% Pure’ marketing campaign has been running since 1999, leveraging stunning, seemingly untouched, scenery to demonstrate environmental pre-eminence. Even though this marketing angle has been criticized recently by some as ‘puffery’ and perhaps misaligned with wider environmental practices, such a statement delivers an expectation that the country should be a leader in delivering fuel standards that encourage lower emissions and protect the environment.

On 22 August 2017, New Zealand Energy and Resources Minister Judith Collins announced noteworthy changes to New Zealand’s petrol and diesel specifications. The amendments to Engine Fuel Specifications Regulations 2011, which sets out minimum standards for fuel performance and minimising harmful components, are designed to “support the growth of lower-emission fuels that are better for people, the environment and cars,” says Collins.

New Zealand’s fuel specifications have been tightened substantially since 2001 in an effort to reduce harmful vehicle emissions and encourage the development of clean vehicle technologies — though you would probably categorise the small Pacific nation as a ‘fast follower’ rather than a global innovator in this space. The evolution of the New Zealand fuel specifications reflects a continual balancing of cost and flexibility for fuel suppliers against environmental and public health considerations.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is responsible for administering the regulations which provide comprehensive fuel specifications for petrol, ethanol, petrol/ethanol blends, diesel, biodiesel and diesel/biodiesel blends. The new regulations are the product of a two-year development process following the release of a public discussion document in September 2015.

Fuel and motor industry related stakeholders, the Ministry of Transport, Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, Environmental Protection Authority, the Treasury and the Ministry for the Environment were all consulted on the proposed regulations. A total of 14 submissions were received, after which “targeted engagement occurred with submitters on an issue-by-issue basis,” according to former Minister of Energy and Resources, Simon Bridges, in a cabinet paper outlining the proposed amendments.

Clearly, the development of new regulations aims to improve the quality of fuel, and ensure it is ‘appropriate for New Zealand’s vehicle fleet and climatic conditions.’ However, Bridges outlined several objectives of the review including improving environmental and public health outcomes by reducing harmful vehicle emissions and improving air quality; enabling new, cleaner vehicle technologies; providing an adequate level of consumer protection by ensuring fuel that is fit for purpose can be supplied to consumers; providing as much flexibility as possible to fuel suppliers within appropriate environmental, public health and consumer protection constraints (i.e. an ‘open specification’) and promoting the government’s objectives around biofuels.

Enhancing security of supply is critical in a small country like New Zealand to minimise costs to consumers. The country’s sole refinery at Marsden Point near Whangarei is responsible for supplying 62% of New Zealand’s petrol and 75% of its diesel demand (2015). Imports from refineries around the Asia-Pacific region account for the remainder of demand, though most biofuels are domestically produced.

The recent changes to New Zealand’s fuel standards encompass four significant components; raising New Zealand’s limit for methanol in petrol from 1% to 3% volume; increasing the biodiesel blend limit in diesel from 5% to 7%; introducing a total oxygen limit; and reducing the maximum sulphur level allowed in petrol from 50 to 10 parts per million (ppm). Fourteen minor and technical changes accompany these amendments to improve the technical clarity of the specifications, to update test methods to reflect technology enhancements and to align with international best practice.

Reducing the maximum sulphur level in petrol is “specifically targeted to reduce harmful emissions, which will have health and environmental benefits,” says Collins, and will align New Zealand with increasingly stringent fuel standards throughout Europe, Japan and the United States.

The move from 50 ppm to 10 ppm, known as ultra-low sulphur, reduces emissions that arise from sulphur combustion in petrol that include oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter, sulphur oxides, volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide. Ultra-low sulphur petrol is a prerequisite for recent exhaust emissions standards and recommended for modern efficient vehicles.

The Marsden Point refinery already produces 10 ppm petrol. South Korea and Singapore provide the bulk of fuel imports to New Zealand. South Korea is already 10 ppm petrol compliant and Singapore is in the process of moving to 10 ppm in 2017. “There should be ample quantities of 10 ppm petrol available in the Asia-Pacific region to meet New Zealand’s import requirements,” advised Bridges in his cabinet paper. Though, to mitigate concerns around reduced supply availability, lower limits for sulphur content in fuels will not apply until 1 July 2018.

Oxygenates are increasingly used as an emission control strategy to reduce carbon monoxide (CO) and, to a lesser extent, hydrocarbon emissions, by promoting the cleaner burning of engine fuels. Typically, individual oxygenates are capped by a total oxygen limit alongside limits to individual oxygenates — to provide fuel suppliers added flexibility in the use of different oxygenates.

New Zealand’s fuel specification did not include a total oxygen limit prior to August 2017, instead opting for a 10% limit on ethanol (equivalent to a total oxygen limit of 3.7% mass) and a 1% limit for ‘other oxygenates.’ The government proposal suggests previous specifications for oxygen were more stringent than any comparative jurisdiction. The new total oxygen limit is 2.7% mass for petrol blended with not more than 5% volume ethanol and 3.7% mass for petrol blended with more than 5%, but not more than 10%, volume ethanol. The current parameter of 1% volume for ‘other oxygenates’ has been removed. The government anticipates increased flexibility and choice for fuel suppliers, with a potential reduction in cost for consumers.

The previous methanol limit was 1% volume. When compared to fuel standards in the U.S., Europe and Australia, this standard is ‘particularly restrictive.’ The New Zealand government claims the limit has effectively negated the sale of methanol/petrol blends in New Zealand, reduced the supply pool and increased costs to consumers. Extending the limit to 3% to allow for methanol blends has the potential to improve environmental outcomes from reduced emissions, greater energy diversity and security of supply, they say. Methanol production in New Zealand could also displace imports into the country.

However, the use of methanol was not supported by vehicle manufacturer representatives who highlighted increased wear on engine components, a reduced service life of injectors, increased risk of phase separation, and the potential to adversely affect an engine’s starting performance.

Bridges asserts that these risks can be mitigated by using corrosion inhibitors and co-solvents, while waivers around the vapour pressure requirements (as provided for in ethanol-petrol blends) can address cold start performance concerns.

The New Zealand government has a policy of promoting biofuel uptake where this is ‘commercially viable and technically feasible’ to encourage a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Increasing the biodiesel limit, raising the methanol blend limit, and the introduction of a total oxygen limit is expected to increase demand for biofuels, allow more flexibility in fuel mixes and enhance the security of local supply.

The 2011 regulations enabled biodiesel to be blended into diesel up to a maximum of 5%. An increase to 7% aligns the limit with the European fuel standard. However, vehicle manufacturers cited operability concerns from a 7% blend limit. The introduction of a labelling requirement for biodiesel blends of more than 5% was proposed to alleviate these fears.

These new regulations have largely evolved in step with international developments in vehicle technology and stakeholders have been broadly supportive of the changes, with unanimous support for the minor/ technical changes, said Bridges in his cabinet paper. The government was also quick to advise that the changes are largely ‘enabling provisions’ to boost choice and flexibility, as opposed to forcing industry participants into unwanted change.

Three of the four amendments took effect on 2 October 2017, though, as mentioned previously, the lower limits for sulphur content in fuels won’t apply until 1 July 2018.

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