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Diesel sulphur levels to be lowered

Monday, 17 December 2001 Media Statement

Diesel sulphur levels to be lowered

Associate Energy Minister Paul Swain today announced steps the government is taking to achieve lower sulphur levels in diesel.

The need to lower diesel sulphur levels in New Zealand has been identified in the review of the petrol and diesel quality regulations, which is currently in progress.

“Internationally, the trend is towards decreasing diesel sulphur levels,” Paul Swain said.

“Lowering sulphur levels reduces particulate emissions, which has environmental and health benefits, particularly in areas where there is a high concentration of vehicle use.

“Right now, our regulations allow diesel sulphur levels up to 3,000 parts per million (ppm). Longer term, New Zealand will need to have ultra low, or less than 50 parts per million, sulphur diesel available to operate the new technology vehicles that are increasingly becoming available. We are looking towards this step in 5 to 6 years’ time.

“This timetable reflects the investment and lead times that will be required at the Marsden Point Oil Refinery to meet these lower sulphur levels, as well as the projected time that vehicles requiring ultra low sulphur diesel will be available in New Zealand.

“The Marsden Point Oil Refinery supplies about 90% of New Zealand’s diesel.

“In the meantime, we want to take the best advantage of some spare capacity at the Marsden Point Oil Refinery to produce diesel with lower sulphur levels than is currently being supplied.

Decisions relating to diesel trial
“Earlier this year, trials were undertaken by the Refinery to determine options available. The results showed that it is possible to achieve lower average sulphur levels right now, which is very welcome news.

“The trials identified two feasible alternatives based on the Refinery’s ability to segregate diesel bound for the Auckland and Northland markets.

“The Auckland region receives its diesel through a dedicated pipeline, the Northland region by truck, and the rest of the country by coastal tanker and then by truck.

“The first option uses the spare capacity to achieve a moderate decrease in diesel sulphur levels across the country.

The second is to produce diesel with a much lower average sulphur content for the Auckland and Northland regions, while still lowering average sulphur levels in the rest of the country by a small amount.

“Which option to choose has come down to considering the merits of both alternatives and where the best advantage can be obtained.

“While the nationwide option would produce a 23% reduction in average diesel sulphur levels, its effects would be dispersed across New Zealand.

“On the other hand, by using a major portion of the spare desulphurisation capacity for Auckland and Northland, average diesel sulphur levels of 1,000 ppm can be achieved for these regions, a decrease of 57%.

“At the same time, a 6% reduction in average diesel sulphur levels across the rest of New Zealand can also be attained.

“This option would concentrate the environmental and associated health benefits of lower sulphur diesel in the region of the country where there is the largest concentration of diesel users and the largest population.

“Air pollution directly associated with vehicle use has increasingly become a problem in Auckland, with particulate matter measurements in various locations around the city exceeding guideline limits for some 25 to 40 days per year. Unlike in other urban areas across the country, these high levels of particulate matter are primarily caused by diesel vehicles.

“Based on this analysis the government has decided to regulate the lowering of diesel sulphur levels to achieve an average of 1,000 ppm in Auckland and Northland, with a maximum cap of 1,400 ppm.

“Sulphur levels in diesel for the rest of the country will also be lowered somewhat, to an average of 2,200 ppm, with a maximum cap of 3,000 ppm.

“In the longer term, it is government’s intention to lower sulphur levels significantly for all consumers across New Zealand. The government is committed to ensuring that New Zealanders obtain good quality fuel that minimises impacts to public health and the environment.

“Fuel quality, however, is only one of many factors that affect air quality and vehicle emissions. To minimise emissions, it is important to keep vehicle engines well maintained and tuned. This is something we all should take responsibility for to improve the health of our environment”, Paul Swain said.

ENDS

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