The quality of fuels for export outside Europe must be increased

The Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (Inspectie Leefomgeving en Transport or ILT) is setting more stringent quality requirements for fuels produced in the Netherlands intended for export to – primarily - West African countries. These requirements are set out in a policy rule which will take effect on 15 August 2022. The objective is that fuels which are being exported from the Netherlands to low-wage countries contain less substances which are harmful to humans and the environment. It means in substance that fuels no longer have a content of less than 50 ppm (O.005%) of sulphur and that petrol has a content of a maximum of 1% of benzene as well as less manganese. It means that in countries where the fuels are used, the emission of harmful substances is limited and the air quality is improved.

Tankstation in een stad in Afrika.
Image: ©Social Income

Less substances

The fuels which are produced in the Netherlands for use outside Europe are of a lower quality than the quality required for fuels in Europe. The fuels for export currently still contain quantities of substances which are directly harmful to human health and which pollute the environment. Research by ILT indicated earlier that the harmful substances moreover break down catalytic converters of motor vehicles which causes even more negative consequences for health and environment.  ILT finds that it does not comply with the duty of care for substances and mixtures pursuant to the Environmental Management Act (Articles The Inspectorate has the authority to conduct enforcement in respect of said duty of care.

Duty of care

ILT has been conducting research into the harmfulness of fuels over the last few years. In June 2021 juni 2021, ILT have called companies operating in the Netherlands to account regarding the fact that the production and the export of this type of fuels does not comply with the duty of care. The companies were called on again to indicate which measures they would take to give substance to the duty of care. ILT organized a round-table meeting in December 2021 with the aim of inducing the oil companies to take actions to improve the quality of fuels. The sector indicated to need a level playing field to produce better fuels; the policy rule contributes to the aforesaid.

The Inspector-General of ILT: “A new step in enforcement”

Jan van den Bos, Inspector-General of ILT: “the policy rule beleidsregel is a new step as regards enforcement. It provides a clear picture as to how ILT makes an assessment as to whether the duty of care is complied with in the production and the export of these fuels upon enforcement. It is important to come to a cleaner quality of fuels for export. It moreover fits the increasing appeal to companies to live up to their social responsibility. The policy rule ensures a level playing field for the whole of the sector in the Netherlands.”

Policy rule

ILT clarifies in the policy rule, based on the duty of care, what they consider to be an acceptable fuel quality for outside Europe. From this date onwards, everyone in the Netherlands is subject to the same rules. Companies can take steps easier without having to price themselves out of the market. At the same time, the policy rule is imperative to those who do not improve the quality of the fuel. From September 2021, as a forerunner, Shell supplies fuel from the Netherlands which has a higher quality than the importing countries in West Africa have reported. ILT is relying on other oil companies to follow soon. ILT collaborates in its approach with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The policy rule is completely in line with UNEP ’s programme aiming to improve the air quality and the vehicle fleet.