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Sulphur content of certain liquid fuels

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The European Union is gradually reducing emissions of sulphur dioxide resulting from the combustion of heavy fuel oils and certain liquid fuels derived from petroleum.

ACT

Council Directive 93/12/EEC of 22 March 1993 relating to the sulphur content of certain liquid fuels [See amending acts].

SUMMARY

Sulphur is naturally present in small quantities in petroleum and coal. Sulphur dioxide (SO2) has been recognised for decades as a major cause of the "acid rain" and air pollution which affect urban and industrial areas. More recently, it has been recognised that SO2 emissions contribute to the formation of secondary inorganic aerosol gases, fine particles which are harmful to human health.

Directive 93/12/EEC, as subsequently amended, is intended to combat emissions of sulphur dioxide, which are one of the causes of acidification and particle formation in the European Union (EU), and are one of the factors causing damage to ecosystems, biodiversity and human health.

On 12 March 1997 the Commission adopted a communication on a Community strategy to combat acidification [COM(97) 88 final - not published in the Official Journal]. Limiting sulphur emissions from the combustion of certain liquid fuels was recognised as an important element in the strategy.

The reduction in sulphur dioxide emissions applies to heavy fuel oils and gas oil (liquid fuels derived from petroleum, including, since Directives 1999/32/EC and 2005/33/EC, those used by seagoing ships).

The following are excluded from the scope of the Directive:

  • gas oil for maritime use used by ships crossing a frontier between a third country and a Member State (until 1 January 2010, when Directive 2005/33/EC enters into force);
  • fuels intended for processing before final combustion;
  • fuels intended for processing in refineries;
  • fuels intended for the purposes of research and testing;
  • fuels used and placed on the market in the outermost regions of the Community, under certain conditions;
  • fuels used by ships on military service and by any ship to ensure its own safety or for saving life at sea, or the use of which is necessitated as a result of damage.

Member States undertake to stop using heavy fuel oils with a sulphur content of over 1.00% by mass from 1 January 2003.

However, a Member State may permit the use of heavy fuel oils with a sulphur content of between 1.00% and 3.00% by mass, throughout or in part of its territory, if the emissions do not cause the critical levels in a Member State to be exceeded and if the air quality standards laid down in Directive 80/779/EEC, which has been replaced by Directive 1999/30/EC, and in all other legislation repealing and replacing those standards are respected.

Member States must ensure that gas oil (including gas oil for maritime use) is not used on their territory from:

  • 1 July 2000 if the sulphur content is more than 0.20% by mass;
  • 1 January 2008 if the sulphur content is more than 0.10% by mass.

In certain cases (sudden change of supply), the Commission may authorise a Member State to apply higher values on its territory, for a period not exceeding 6 months, if the Member State has difficulty in meeting its obligations under the Directive. The Commission must notify its decision to the Council and the other Member States.

The Directive provides for verification of the sulphur content of fuels by sampling and analysis.

On the basis of the results of the analyses, Member States must submit a report to the Commission on the sulphur content of the liquid fuels subject to the Directive no later than 30 June each year.

The Commission must submit a report to the European Parliament and the Council no later than 31 December 2006, together with any proposals for amending the Directive.

Marine fuels

Directive 1999/32/EC extends the legislation on the reduction of sulphur dioxide emissions to cover certain liquid fuels derived from petroleum and used by seagoing ships.

Directive 2005/33/EC, like the communication on reducing atmospheric emissions from seagoing ships, forms part of a European Union strategy to reduce air pollution from ships. At the moment, ships are one of the leading sources of sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions in the Union. Research has shown that, by 2010, SO2 emissions from ships could be equivalent to over 75% of the emissions from all land-based sources.

The Directive extends the scope of Directive 1999/32/EC to include all liquid fuels derived from petroleum and used by ships operating in Member States' territorial waters. It provides, in particular, for:

  • limiting to 1.5% by mass, from 11 August 2006, the sulphur content of marine fuels used by vessels in the Baltic Sea, and from 11 August 2007 for vessels in the North Sea and the English Channel, in order to reduce acidification and improve air quality;
  • limiting to 1.5% by mass, from 11 August 2006, the sulphur content of marine fuels used by passenger vessels on regular services to or from any port in the Union in order to improve air quality and create sufficient demand to ensure an EU-wide supply of low-sulphur fuel;
  • limiting to 0.1% by mass, from 1 January 2010, the sulphur content of marine fuels used by ships on inland waterways and at berth in order to improve air quality around ports and inland waterways;
  • by way of derogation to the abovementioned limits for fuel oil, allowing ships to use an approved emission abatement technology, provided that these ships continuously achieve emission reductions which are at least equivalent and that they thoroughly document that any waste streams discharged into enclosed ports and estuaries have no impact on ecosystems;
  • limiting to 1.5% by mass the sulphur content of marine diesel oils sold in the European Union;
  • limiting to 0.1% by mass the sulphur content of marine gas oils sold in the European Union;
  • requiring refuelling operations to be recorded in the logbook before ships can be granted access to ports in the Community;
  • ensuring that the sulphur content of fuels sold on the territory of the Member States is documented by the supplier, accompanied by a sample.

The Directive also provides for verification of the sulphur content of marine fuels by sampling and analysis. Every year, Member States must send the Commission a report on the sulphur content of the fuels covered by this proposal and used on their territory. By 31 December 2010, the Commission must send Parliament and the Council a report on implementation of the Directive, together with any proposals for amending it.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into force - Date of expiryDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Directive 93/12/EECDate of notification1.10.1994OJ L 74, 27.3.1993

Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Directive 98/70/EC28.12.19981.7.1999OJ L 350, 28.12.1998
Directive 1999/32/EC11.5.19991.7.2000OJ L 121, 11.5.1999
Directive 2005/33/EC11.8.200511.8.2006OJ L 191, 22.7.2005

RELATED ACTS

Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 January 2007 amending Directive 98/70/EC as regards the specification of petrol, diesel and gas-oil and introducing a mechanism to monitor and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the use of road transport fuels and amending Council Directive 99/32/EC, as regards the specification of fuel used by inland waterway vessels and repealing Directive 93/12/EEC [COM(2007) 18 final - not published in the Official Journal].
This proposal is intended, inter alia, to confirm 1 January 2009 as the date on which all diesel must have a maximum sulphur content of 10 ppm (parts per million); to reduce the polyaromatic hydrocarbon content of diesel to 8% (instead of 11%); to reduce the maximum sulphur content of non-road gas-oil from 1 000 ppm to 10 ppm for land-based uses and from 1 000 ppm to 300 ppm for inland waterways; to increase the oxygenate content and vapour pressure limit for petrol blended with ethanol, in order to enable a higher volume of biofuels to be used in petrol, with appropriate labelling; and to require fuel suppliers to reduce life-cycle (refining, transport and use) greenhouse gas emissions from these fuels by 1% per year from 2009. The proposal is also designed to simplify Directives 98/70/EC and 99/32/EC and repeal Directive 93/12/EEC, which has become redundant.

Last updated: 27.03.2007
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