ILT notes cleaner fuel to West Africa from the Netherlands

Fuels from the Netherlands to West Africa must meet strict requirements to prevent excessive air pollution. Five years ago, the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT) noticed that fuel with high levels of harmful substances was being exported. Last year, the ILT introduced a policy rule to set requirements for the levels of benzene, sulphur and manganese in exported road fuels. The inspectorate has now established that the policy rule is being complied with in the Netherlands.

Oil refinary: huge industrial complex with lots of big metal pipes
Oil refinery

“We notice that unhealthy fuel is no longer exported from the Netherlands to West Africa”, says Marietta Harjono, who conducts research at the ILT into the quality of fuel exports to low and middle-income countries. “This has a positive effect on people and the environment in those countries. Together with Belgium, the Netherlands is the largest producer and exporter of road fuels destined for West African countries. More than half of all petrol imported into West Africa comes from Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp.”

Harjono: “In August 2022, we introduced a measure to prevent fuel containing too much sulphur, benzene and manganese from being exported. Since then, we have closely monitored compliance by Dutch oil companies and traders. It is clear the measure has a major impact. Since the end of May 2023, companies operating from the Netherlands have been complying with the policy rule. The levels of sulphur, benzene and manganese have decreased significantly.

Petrol exports from the Netherlands and Belgium since 2016

Petrol exports from the Netherlands and Belgium since 2016
Netherlands world-wideNetherlands to West AfricaBelgium world-wideBelgium to West Africa
April'16 - Oct'1668.1918.6222.213.14
Oct'16 - April'1768.4314.3719.4312.94
April'17 - Oct'1760.9214.6221.189.17
Oct'17 - April'1871.9522.0918.6713.07
April'18 - Oct'1874.3120.2923.4413.48
Oct'18 - April'1975.0922.0820.3615.17
April'19 - Oct'1982.0821.8328.9916.55
Oct'19 - April '2074.325.0426.5718.81
April'20 - Oct'2054.3414.4527.0111.05
Oct'20 - April'2170.8123.7232.3818.33
April'21 - Oct'2175.7921.941.7718.38
Oct'21 - April'2260.7825.8345.0228.14
April'22 - Oct'2281.1824.7641.723.43
Oct'22 - April'2361.0124.2243.9425.31
April'23 - Oct'2358.347.8238.9118.25
Source table as .csv (737 bytes)

Shifts in the fuel export market

The ILT notices shifts in the fuel market for both diesel and petrol. Russia's invasion of Ukraine has created a shortage on the diesel market in Europe, causing the export of diesel from European countries to countries outside Europe to decline sharply from 2022.

Petrol exports from the Netherlands to West African countries has fallen sharply in the past six months. This is partly due to the ILT's policy rule, but also because Nigeria abolished the petrol subsidy scheme, which reduced domestic demand for petrol in that country and surrounding countries.

The ILT does notice that the total petrol exports from the Netherlands have remained reasonably stable after the policy rule was tightened. The decrease from the Netherlands to West Africa has partly been compensated by an increase in exports of cleaner quality petrol from the Netherlands to other regions in the world.

Petrol exports from Belgium

Belgian petrol exports to West Africa have decreased as well in the past six months. Harjono: “This suggests that production of petrol in the Netherlands for the West African market has shifted to Belgium. Belgium recently announced its intention to implement similar measures to the Netherlands. This is a positive development that will contribute to an international level playing field.” Read Belgium drafting new fuel quality law targeting exports to Africa on Reuters for more information.

Inspectorate continues to monitor compliance

The ILT continues to closely monitor compliance by Dutch companies. In the event of a violation, the ILT can impose an order subject to a penalty for noncompliance, for instance. It also informs the Openbaar Ministerie (Public Prosecution Service) of serious violations in accordance with the Landelijke Handhavingsstratie Omgevingsrecht (LHSO) (National Enforcement Strategy for Environmental and Planning Law). If it appears that companies are trying to avoid the policy rule by exporting the production of low-quality fuels from other countries or mixing them at sea, the ILT will take action against violations or notify the supervisory authorities in these countries.

In addition to the oil sector itself, the ILT has also informed Dutch and foreign banks with customers such as oil companies and traders about the policy rule. As part of their anti-money laundering policy, banks must ensure they do not finance activities that conflict with regulations. Some banks are now actively addressing this.