Cleaner gasoline coming soon to a car near you

Apr 09, 2015   | Categories: Energy, Environment, Refineries
Cleaner Gasoline
Canadians already fuel their vehicles with some of the cleanest gasoline on the planet. In two years, it will be even cleaner.

Starting in 2017, the amount of sulphur in gas will be reduced to “next to nothing,” said Don Munroe, Suncor manager of fuels, technical support. Suncor is a Canadian Fuels member.

In last week’s blog, we discussed how Canadian Fuels experts gather information to inform the public on fuels. This week, we’re sharing information about emissions.

Refineries across the country are gearing up to comply with Environment Canada’s new Sulphur in Gasoline Regulations, which require that sulphur levels be reduced from 30 to 10 parts per million.

“The main reason the sulphur needs to be lower is to facilitate the next generation of light duty vehicles,” said Munroe.

“The vehicles made today have emissions that are 98 per cent less than those produced in 1975. The lower sulphur gasoline will allow vehicle manufacturers to design engines that will reduce that remaining two per cent to next to nothing.”

Driving further on every tank

The new regulations will be tied to a new fuel efficiency regulation, commonly called CAFE standards, for vehicles manufactured between 2016 and 2026, said Munroe.

These new, highly-efficient vehicles will more than double gas mileage for drivers. On top of that, cars built after 2004 will also have their emissions reduced just by using this new lower sulphur gasoline, he said.

Reducing sulphur levels started in the 1990s, when refiners stepped up efforts to remove the sulphur that naturally occurs in crude oil. Technology has improved to the point where the last traces of sulphur can finally be removed.

“It’s the last little bit of sulphur that is embedded in the molecules that make up gasoline that is the problem,” said Munroe.

To remove this last little bit of sulphur, a gasoline treater is required to force it out and replace it with a hydrogen atom, he explained.

“That’s all the chemistry I’m using, so please read on,” said Munroe, jokingly.

Canadian refineries are leading the way on clean fuels

All refineries in Canada will need to have processing units to remove the sulphur. Some will need to build them, while others will upgrade existing units.

Sulphur reduction in gasoline is taking place around the world, at different stages and at different dates, said Munroe. Canada is harmonized with the United States on both sulphur level reduction and its implementation, which will reach full completion by 2020.

“The good news is Canada’s refineries’ average sulphur level is 33 per cent less than the States now, so we’re already half way there,” he said.

It all means that driving in Canada will be not just cleaner, but more efficient in the very near future.
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