The Fuel Quality Directive (FQD), originally adopted in 1998 but revised several times since, provides technical and environmental specification for fuels used in positive ignition and compression engines.
The Fuel Quality Directive is key to further improve fuels available on European markets, as it regulates several parameters of petrol. The Research Octane Number (RON) is one of the parameters, which needs further improvement and could provide both environmental and health benefits for consumers in Europe.
Increasing octane number from today’s RON95 to RON 102 offers several benefits to consumers, car manufacturers and refiners as it:
- Offers great efficiency gains especially if used in more efficient engines (downsized and down speed engines, cylinder deactivation, and increased compression ratios);
- Helps reduce CO2 emissions. A realistic 7% lower fuel consumption through higher octane would save 20 million tonnes of CO2 per year;
- Contributes to air quality improvement. Higher octane would reduce emissions of benzene and particulate matter, ensuring there is no trade-off between CO2 targets and air quality;
- Supports an uptake of alternative powertrains by increasing fuel efficiency of hybrid cars, thus making hybrid vehicles a more attractive choice for consumers;
- Reduces fuel consumption providing a benefit for consumers – who get more kilometres from their tank;
- Is fit-for-purpose: higher-octane petrol is compatible with cars, refineries and existing infrastructure.
What is needed?
To achieve these significant improvements, legislators simply need to adapt the Fuel Quality Directive and the CO2 targets for car legislation.
In order to move towards higher-octane fuels (i.e., RON 102), a change in the Fuel Quality Directive is required. Considering that octane is not the only property affecting combustion efficiency, a minimum specification for energy density of finished petrol is also required, to avoid jeopardizing the octane-related energy efficiency benefit with a lower energy content finished fuel.
At the same time, a new test fuel should be designed to be able to capture the technological improvement of the engine. This requires changes to the test fuel regulation 692/2008.
FQD and fuel ethers
The FQD provides rules for calculating life-cycle greenhouse emissions from biofuels, including for bio-ETBE, bio-MTBE and bio-TAEE.
In 2009, the European Commission amended the Fuel Quality Directive, allowing Member States to apply a relaxation of the summer vapour pressure limit for petrol blended with bioethanol provided the air quality criteria are met.
As mandated by the Treaties, the FQD should seek to provide high-level environmental and human health protection while ensuring fair market competition for all vehicle technologies. FQD’s waiver procedure for the maximum vapour pressure (RVP) of petrol blended with bioethanol negatively affects all of these goals. It distorts the fuel market and leads to increased hydrocarbon emissions such as benzene and evaporative emissions that harm both people and the environment.
- The RVP waiver leads to increased evaporative emissions and hydrocarbon emissions such as benzene during the storage, distribution and refuelling of petrol. Evaporative emissions occur when the petrol in your tank slowly evaporates over time releasing volatile organic components into the air.
- Increasing vapour pressure leads to increased air pollution due to increased formation of precursors of dangerous ground-level ozone. Ozone negatively affects both the environment and human health, leading to numerous premature deaths.
- RVP waivers can create technical risks for the driveability of older vehicles because raising the vapour pressure limit increases fuel volatility, which can negatively influence the effectiveness of older engines.
Bio-ETBE is an important route for blending bio-ethanol today. Jeopardising the development of bio-ether fuels puts at risk the EU biofuels’ targets. Ethanol can be, and is today, directly blended into specially prepared petrol-based blends. These blend stocks for oxygenate blending (BOB) are readily available on the market and allow the final product to match the specifications in terms of vapour pressure as well as other requirements.