In November 2020 F+L Daily released a comprehensive study on the global fuel additives markets and their expected future developments. The authors were Dr. Raj Shah, David Forester, Stanley Zhang. The full article with charts and illustrations as well as other references can be found here.
The following is a compilation and extract of the main points, made in the report:
Fuel additives are chemical compounds formulated to enhance performance and correct the deficiencies of fuels used in motor vehicles. In a broad sense, they can be classified as either performance additives, distribution additives, or fuel quality additives.
Performance additives are designed to improve engine performance by:
(1) removing and preventing deposits in fuel injectors, valves, and combustion chambers
(2) boosting lubricity
(3) improving combustion efficiency
(4) improving low temperature properties
(5) reducing undesirable emissions
In contrast, fuel additives classed in the distribution category combat corrosion, foam, filter plugging, and microorganism contamination. Fuel quality additives, on the other hand, help to maintain fuel quality by inhibiting oxidation, reducing fuel degradation, and improving long-term fuel storage stability. Determining the optimal combination of additives to use is integral to long-term engine durability and lowering vehicle tailpipe emissions.
Fuel additive use has grown in popularity due to government regulations which impose stringent environmental regulations to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Organisations like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the European Union (EU) have pushed the market to focus on cleaner and more efficient fuels in the United States, the U.S. state of California, and Europe, respectively. Along with efforts to reduce vehicular emissions, the implementation of gasoline direct injection (GDI) engines, the rise in demand for ultra-low sulphur diesel fuel (ULSD), and the overall expansion of the automotive industry are key factors contributing to the projected growth in fuel additives use into 2021 and the next decade.
Current applications of fuel additives
According to the U.S. EPA, the typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. With passenger vehicles composing 93% of the estimated 1.2 billion vehicles globally, the amount of carbon emissions from passenger vehicles alone climbs to a concerning total. Carbon emissions have risen rapidly since the Industrial Revolution, with global GHG emissions from the transportation sector at around 4.62 metric gigatons in 2016. Consequently, fuel additive manufacturers have focused on improving their additive formulations to meet fuel economy and emissions standards of commercial fuel blends.
In 1996, the U.S. EPA introduced the Lowest Additive Concentration (LAC) standard, which required a minimum amount of fuel detergent to be used in all gasoline sold in the United States. However, many automakers believe this minimum level of additives failed to provide adequate protection against deposit accumulation and their associated complications, like detonation, pre-ignition, incomplete combustion, reduced fuel economy, and increased exhaust emissions. In response, eight automakers — Audi, BMW, General Motors (GM), Honda, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen — established Top Tier in 2004. This voluntary program introduced a higher standard for gasoline detergent additives and increased the concentration of certified detergents in fuels for the purpose of raising fuel quality and optimising engine performance.
According to a study conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA), the use of Top Tier gasoline resulted in 19 times fewer intake valve deposits (IVDs) compared to non-Top Tier gasoline. Additional research showed that the long-term use of non-Top Tier gasoline could lower fuel economy savings by 2-4%. Outstanding results from the use of Top Tier gasoline convinced 54 fuel retailers to offer Top Tier gasoline around the world. Participating retailers include major players, such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell, and Sunoco. At these locations, gasoline across all grades, from regular to premium, must comply with Top Tier specifications.
The future of fuel additives from 2021 and beyond
The growth of the automotive industry, and as a consequence the growth in global fuel consumption, drives fuel additives demand. The United States is expected to dominate the fuel additives market moving forward into 2021. This is supported by the fact that the United States is the second largest market for vehicle sales and production globally. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the U.S. consumed about 3.39 billion barrels of motor gasoline in 2019. Meanwhile, diesel fuel consumption by the transportation sector was 1.1 billion barrels, accounting for 15% of total petroleum consumption in the country. These numbers are expected to grow in 2021, with corresponding growth in the fuel additives market, despite the hiccup in 2020 due the global Covid-19 pandemic. Other markets, such as China, Europe, India, and South Korea are expected to grow as well, although the growth of electric vehicles could have a negative impact on fuel demand.
In the past, more stringent environmental regulations have boosted demand for fuel additives. The U.S. EPA plays a key role in the monitoring and commercialisation of fuel additives. In March 2020, the U.S. EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued new standards regarding greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy requirements for passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks. Dubbed as the Safer Affordable Fuel Efficiency (SAFE) Vehicles Rule, the new standards, which are being challenged in court by several U.S. states, require automakers to improve fuel efficiency by 1.5% annually from model years 2021 to 2026. By 2025, automakers must reduce CO2 emissions to under 202 grams per mile and improve fuel economy to at least 39.8 miles per gallon for cars and light trucks. This new rule is actually a setback from the previously established standards by the Obama administration of 5% annual fuel efficiency improvements, with an objective to reach 46.7 miles per gallon by 2025.
Gasoline consumption is expected to pick up again post-Covid 19 to meet the requirements of evolving gasoline engine technology. Currently, the use of deposit control additives and octane improvers in gasoline are major contributors to rising additives consumption because of the need for more efficient fuel for modern engines. GDI systems have become the standard in newer, high-performance vehicles with internal combustion engines. In contrast to traditional port injection fuel delivery systems, GDI engines have injectors placed directly inside the combustion chamber, which yields improved combustion, enhanced performance, better fuel mileage, and lower vehicle tailpipe emissions. However, GDI engines are prone to carbon deposit build up on intake valves because the gasoline is directly injected into the cylinder. This necessitates the use of higher amounts of deposit control additives.
In addition, the development and commercialisation of fuel additives from renewable resources is expected to generate new opportunities for the fuel additives market. The French-German company, Global Bioenergies, has been producing two high-performance fuel additives, namely, isooctane and ethyl-tert-butyl ether (ETBE), from bio-based isobutene. Isooctane and ETBE are utilised in gasoline blends as octane improvers with high octane ratings equal to or higher than 100, yielding high-renewable-content fuels with better knock resistance.