In Focus
February 2014

The need for countries in Asia and the Middle East to meet higher fuel standards

No matter what report and statistic one looks at, the major Asian cities are still ranked high in the top quartile of the most pollutant cities in the world. Without going though the wide range of air pollution indices, looking at the 2014 world pollution index map, you can see a clear focus of the red spots in Asia and the Middle East. Green is the prevailing colour in Europe and the U.S., representing a significantly better pollution standard, while South America shows a mixed bag. South-East Europe will gradually become "greener" over time, hand in hand with the implementation of high emission standards.

The pollution map is based on data provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and some other relevant publications. Air pollution is the main component of the index while water and other pollution sources are deemed secondary.

The world pollution map is a matching image of the air emission standards applied in those countries and underlines the need for countries in Asia and the Middle East to improve their fuel standards.

According to the Yale University Environment Performance Index 2014, 64% of the countries worldwide meet the target for Air Pollution Average Exposure to PM2.5 (= fine particulate matters) which is considered far more hazardous to human health than the PM10 index.

Transportation fuels are a main contributor to PM2.5, and health concerns make emission standards an important factor to governments around the world.

Based on research by the Asian Clean Fuels Association (ACFA), vehicle emission standards in Asia appear to be fragmented as shown by the accompanying table and need to be harmonized.

After South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan emerged as front runners in terms of setting new, better pollution standards. We can now see some other countries taking the initiative, making the need for improvement in air quality very high on their agenda:


On December 18, 2013 the general administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine and the Standardization Administration in China jointly announced the implementation of the new GB-V national standards for vehicle-use gasoline. The implementation of the new standard is meant to be completed by January 1, 2018. Beijing, Shanghai and eight other cities in the Jiangsu province have already started their programs. The GB-V standard almost exactly matches the Euro 5 standard, and the key changes compared to GB-V are:

- The maximum sulphur level in gasoline will be reduced from 50 parts per million
 (ppm) to 10 ppm.

- The maximum allowable maganese allowed will be reduced from 8mg/liter (l) to

- The maximum olefin content will be reduced from 28% to 24%.

- The vapour pressure is set at 45-85 kpa for winter gasoline and 40-65 kpa for
 summer gasoline, slightly tighter than the GB-IV standard.

All these measures are expected to contribute to a reduction in emissions and better air quality.

At the same time, in cooperation with the local oil industry, the octane numbers/grades have been changed from 90, 93 and 97RON in the GB-IV standard to 89, 92, 95 and 98RON in the GB-V standard.

Although a tighter RON standard at higher RON numbers would be desirable to reduce the overall gasoline consumption per car and further contribute to the harmonization of Asian and global octane standards (i.e. Europe is virtually a one-grade market for minimum 95RON with a minor share for higher octane quality in some countries), all the measures to be taken will have a positive effect and send a signal to neighbouring countries and international gasoline suppliers.


Other positive developments can be found elsewhere, i.e. In Vietnam where, like in China, harmful chemicals have recently been banned from use in gasoline. This includes products such as NMA (n-methylaniline), secondary butyl acetate, acetone, metal additives like MMT and ferrocene, which are also banned in Europe as all of these products are being held responsible for causing fuel-related engine damages in cars.


In Malaysia the standards for transportation fuels are also about to be changed. The recent publication of the new national 4M standard for diesel fuel and gasoline can be seen as a step in the right direction despite the fact that there were hopes for a higher standard to be introduced as the new specification demands tighter limits on lead, distillation range, vapour pressure, sulphur and benzene only. The new standard for Malaysia is due for implementation on January 1, 2015.

However, other countries in Asia, predominantly in Southeast Asia, still apply Euro 2 or Euro 3 standards, and it requires the concerted effort of the clean fuel industry to work with all stakeholders (policy makers, car manufacturers and the oil industry) to push for tighter emission standards to reduce air pollution and improve air quality.

A harmonized and improved transportation fuels quality pool throughout Asia will not only improve air quality in the region, it will also:

- Reduce energy consumption as a whole (provided new joint standards are set i.e.
 at European levels)

- Comply with the requirements set by the automotive industry

- Reduce trading, blending and logistics costs throughout the entire fuel supply

- Make quality controls significantly easier.

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