Fuel For Thought
December 2021

Returning to coal amid energy crunch would be climate 'tragedy' –EU

• Returning to coal amid energy crunch would be climate 'tragedy' –EU

The European Union's (EU) head of climate change policy says returning to using dirty energy from coal during the current energy crunch is "not a smart move" and markets should seize the opportunity to transition into renewables. The collective industrial recovery this year following the coronavirus pandemic crisis has led to a surge in demand and prices for energy everywhere.

In Europe, soaring wholesale gas prices have encouraged more utilities to switch to coal to generate electricity just as the region tries to wean nations off the high-polluting fuel. In Asia, coal demand from giant markets such as China and India has surged as their economies restarted after major pandemic-induced slumps.

"It will be a tragedy if in this crunch we will start investing again in coal, which is an energy that has no future and is extremely polluting," European Commission executive vice-president Frans Timmermans told Reuters on Monday (Oct 18) during a visit in Indonesia. "The smart thing to do is, during this energy crisis, reduce as soon as possible your dependency on fossil fuels," he added, noting that prices of renewable energy had remained consistently low while coal prices had soared.

Global coal prices have jumped to record highs and top thermal coal exporter Indonesia has increased its 2021 output target to meet the demand as mining operations were disrupted by heavy rain. Coal was part of Mr Timmermans' discussion with Indonesian officials during his visit ahead of the COP26 climate change talks in Glasgow, Scotland, next month.

Indonesia, the world's 8th largest greenhouse gas emitter, is aiming to reach net-zero carbon emission by 2060 or earlier, which include plans to phase out the use of coal-fired plants. Indonesia is also a top coal exporter, with overseas coal sales an important source of revenue. Coal currently makes up around 60 per cent of Indonesia's power generation and contributes around 35 per cent of its emissions.

Mr Timmermans said Indonesia's plan to increase the portion of renewables in its energy mix is "laudable and ambitious" and the EU wished to increase cooperation in that sector. "We want to cooperate with Indonesia to make sure we can invest and have technology transfers; bring some ideas to the market for offshore wind or solar, or geothermal," Mr Timmermans said.

Indonesia will need to invest US$150 billion to US$200 billion (S$202 billion to S$269 billion) a year in low-carbon programmes over the next nine years to meet its goal to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2060 or sooner, a government study showed.

• Will China follow the next European emissions standard?

Over the past couple of decades, China has implemented multiple vehicle emissions regulations. However, efforts to curb air pollution have been offset by substantial growth in the vehicle population and urban air quality has suffered as a result. China’s vehicle fleet is approaching 300 million cars, with annual sales of 25 million. Electric vehicles accounted for only 1.3 million sales in 2020.

China’s GB-VI A is the most recent emissions standard in the East Asian country. The new standard was introduced at the beginning of 2021, following a six-month delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and is expected to deliver significant improvements in traffic-related pollution. Hot on the heels of this most recent regulation, GB-VI B, the 2nd phase of China’s GB-VI, is expected to launch in 2023.

The gold standard in emissions regulation

Many countries around the world have followed Europe’s lead, adopting Euro emissions standards, or closely mimicking their regulations. China GB-VI A legislation is similar to Euro 6. European emissions standards have been seen as the gold standard in emissions regulation, comprehensively covering the main pollutants. Since the introduction of real driving emissions (RDE) testing, Euro standards have demonstrated a large positive impact on tailpipe emissions.

When China’s GB-VI B is fully implemented, it will be the most stringent emissions legislation in the world, which lowers limits for existing pollutants and new pollutants. In many cases, limits are more stringent than Euro 6. In some instances, limits are half of those set in Euro 6. As with legislation in most parts of the world, the key pollutants are nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulates. The new standard introduces particulate number limits as well as limits for particulate mass.

China VIB will also be technology neutral. The limit on particulates applies to both port fuel-injected engines and direct-injected engines whereas in Europe it only applies to direct-injected engines. Countries that have previously looked towards Europe for guidance could potentially look to China’s legislation moving forward.

The introduction of RDE testing brings China up to date with the latest legislation in Europe. RDE involves road testing with portable emissions measurement systems (PEMS) so that pollutants are measured under the most realistic conditions possible. The range of temperatures and altitudes within China VIB are greater than Euro 6. A combination of tight limits and wide RDE conditions means compliance will be more difficult. Particulate filters will be required on virtually all cars, even hybrids.

Emissions durability requirements are another noteworthy component of China VIB regulations. OEMs will need to prove emissions will stay low for up to 200,000 kilometres (in passenger cars), significantly longer than the 160,000 kilometres specified in Euro 6. While much of the focus seems to be on passenger car restrictions, China VIB also includes heavy-duty legislation and addresses concerns around exhaust emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from diesel engines. NOx is of particular concern at lower temperatures.

Limits that are half of the already arduous Euro 6 standards are going to be a real challenge. Though, Howard notes that there are cars in Europe that already achieve emissions performance that is a fraction of the limit. Consistent enforcement has not been a strong point in China’s emissions legislation in the past, although that is changing. Sophisticated emissions technology, including remote sensing stations, and data from the vehicle’s on-board diagnostic system being monitored regularly for compliance purposes rather than just to diagnose problems.

In Europe, the consultation period for Euro-7 fuels standards was completed earlier this year. Limits and tests are expected to be finalised by the end of 2021, before the specification goes through the legislative process in the European Commission. Euro 7 is expected to be fully implemented in the 2026 to 2028 timeframe. It is anticipated that Euro 7 will incorporate an expansion of RDE conditions and will extend emissions durability. In China, thoughts have not yet turned to the next phase of emissions standards beyond China VIB.

Future emissions standards may go beyond the tailpipe

For now, emissions legislation is purely focused on what comes out of the tailpipe. Future standards may include emissions from other parts of the vehicle, such as brakes and tyres. In particulate filter-equipped vehicles more particulates are coming from brakes and tyres than from the tailpipe. It is yet to be determined whether Euro 7 will incorporate emissions beyond the tailpipe — which are much more difficult to quantify. Total lifecycle emissions “from well to wheel” appear to be the way forward for future regulations, as a lot of CO2 and other emissions are embedded in the manufacturing of electric vehicles, especially in the battery pack.

• Fuel Stations In West Bengal, India shut down to protest increased ethanol blending in petrol

People in West Bengal had a harrowing experience in early September this year, as about 3,000 fuel stations were closed for a 24-hour ‘No-purchase, no-sale’ strike against the central government’s decision to increase ethanol blending in petrol to 22.5%, and also due to short supply of fuel to dispensing pump stations.

Owners of fuel stations in the state complained that petrol mixed with ethanol was a massive problem as ethanol is hygroscopic in nature, which means it absorbs water from air, and West Bengal’s weather is highly humid. They alleged that they already had issues due to the E10 gasohol mix and now with the increase in ethanol’s percentage, the problem will be further aggravated.

Prasenjit Sen, joint secretary of West Bengal Petroleum Dealers Association (WBPDA), said, “Not only does it (ethanol) absorb water from the atmosphere, but it also causes damage to underground tanks at stations due to rainwater. This is an alarming situation and will cause problems for us as well as for consumers. It will degrade the quality of fuel and create mistrust. In future, we will go for a bigger protest if our demands are not met.”

On the issue of short supply of fuel to pump stations by oil marketing companies, he said, “It is a long pending demand and has not been resolved yet. During the transit of fuel from one place to another, a significant profit margin (nearly 1 per cent) goes in while managing the pilferage.”

Long queues of vehicles were seen at different fuel stations run by Indian Oil, which was not a part of the strike, in Kolkata and adjoining districts.

Representatives of WBPDA met state minister of transport and housing Firhad Hakim to share their grievances and demands. Hakim has assured the association that he will look into their demands, following their discussion.

• UNEP partnership announces end of lead use in gasoline

In early September 2021 the UNEP-led Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV) announced the end of lead use in gasoline ago, globally. Until 1970, almost all gasoline used around the world contained tetraethyl lead (TEL), to boost the octane number in gasoline to prevent engine knocking. Japan led the rest of the world by fully phasing out leaded gasoline in 1983, which was followed by the U.S.A. in 1996 and the European Union (EU) in 2000.

In 1996, leaded gasoline represented more than 50% of the world gasoline market, rapidly dropping to negligible levels by 2007. By 2003, most of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Middle East had phased out leaded gasoline, while most of Africa phased it out by 2006 and Asia-Pacific by 2007.

Algeria is the last country to phase out lead in gasoline. The decision to remove lead from all grades of gasoline was announced by Algeria’s Ministry of Energy and Mines in June 2021. The ministry planned to have national oil company Sonatrach to continue selling leaded gasoline until the end of 2021. However, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the last inventories of leaded gasoline were already depleted by July 2021.

This development follows an almost two-decade long campaign by the UNEP. When the UNEP began its campaign to eliminate lead in petrol in 2002, it was one of the most serious environmental threats to human health, the UN agency said.  “Leaded petrol causes heart disease, stroke and cancer. It also affects the development of the human brain, especially harming children, with studies suggesting it reduced five to 10 IQ points.”

Banning the use of leaded petrol has been estimated to prevent more than 1.2 million premature deaths per year, increase IQ points among children, save USD2.45 trillion for the global economy, and decrease crime rates, according to UNEP.

“This has been a journey of 20 years with a lot of obstacles,” including court cases in the U.S. and the U.K., and local UNEP partners being threatened, said Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP, during the Q&A part of the UNEP press conference on August 30. “Which is why today is such a remarkable achievement and landing spot.

“The successful enforcement of the ban on leaded petrol is a huge milestone for global health and our environment,” she said in a press statement. “Overcoming a century of deaths and illnesses that affected hundreds of millions and degraded the environment worldwide, we are invigorated to change humanity’s trajectory for the better through an accelerated transition to clean vehicles and electric mobility.”

In addition, lead poisoned vehicle emission control systems. Lead binds to active sites within the catalyst and oxygen sensor, greatly reducing their effectiveness. The Worldwide Fuel Charter indicates that unleaded gasoline must be available for catalyst-equipped vehicles. Health concerns and the widespread adoption of after-treatment systems in vehicles have led most countries to require lead-free gasoline.

However, according to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), owners and operators of more than 167,000 piston-engine aircraft operating in the United States still rely on aviation gasoline (avgas) to power their aircraft. Avgas is the only remaining lead-containing transportation fuel. Lead in avgas prevents damaging engine knock, or detonation, that can result in a sudden engine failure. During the UNEP press conference, Janet McCabe, deputy administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said that “in the United States we have been looking at this issue. How we can move away from leaded aviation fuel. That is ongoing work in the United States right now.”

Andersen also pointed out that “while we have now eliminated the largest source of lead pollution, urgent action is still needed to stop lead pollution from other sources – such as lead in paints, leaded batteries, and lead in household items.”

• Petronas stations in Malaysia switch to Euro 5 diesel fuel

Malaysia’s Petronas Dagangan Bhd (PDB) announced on Friday that all diesel fuel sold at more than 1,000 Petronas service stations in Malaysia are now Euro 5-compliant. Euro 5-compliant diesel fuel has a maximum sulphur content of 10 parts per million (ppm).

“We are pleased to have established the largest and most accessible network for Euro 5 compliant diesels in Malaysia. Our three biodiesel blends of PETRONAS Dynamic Diesel Euro 5 with Pro-Drive ensure all drivers have access to cleaner fuel options that not only best complement their vehicles, but also produce a smaller carbon footprint,” said Head of PDB’s Retail Business Khalil Muri.

“Beyond compliance with the Euro 5 standards mandated by the Government, our unique formulation delivers a more powerful drive to motorists for smoother and longer journeys on the road. This is part of PDB’s promise of making our customers’ everyday lives simpler and better,” he added.

Offering a choice of three biodiesel blends

Branded as Petronas Dynamic Diesel Euro 5 with Pro-Drive, the product is available in three biodiesel blends: B7 or 7% biodiesel; B10 or 10% biodiesel; and, B20 or 20% biodiesel at Petronas stations.

The Petronas Dynamic Diesel Euro 5 with Pro-Drive claims to deliver three key benefits for diesel vehicles:

Clean: Cleans and protects critical diesel engine parts to prolong engine life;

Efficient: Improves combustion, optimises engine performance, and provides greater fuel economy; and

Smooth: Facilitates easier start, less vibration, and smoother drive for a better journey.

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