Fuel Quality

Fuels for use in the Netherlands and in Europe must meet strict requirements. But not all fuels produced here are intended for Dutch and European use. Fuels intended for use outside the EU are often of different, less good quality. The ILT wants that to change.

Companies have a duty to make every effort to prevent negative consequences for human health and the environment. In the Netherlands, we call this the ‘duty of care’. According to the ILT, fuel producers do not comply with this duty by producing these low-quality fuels. These fuels contain high levels of harmful substances, such as benzene, sulphur and manganese. The ILT wants companies in the Netherlands to only produce and export fuels of a higher (acceptable) quality.

We explain in this video below how duty of care leads to better fuel quality (English subtitles).

This video from the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT) is about improving fuel quality for low- and middle-income countries outside Europe.


On screen: Logo Dutch government.

VOICE-OVER: 'These are the ports of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp: the ARA region. Ships carrying fuel leave here every day. More than half of the imported petrolin West Africa comes from the ARA region. At the terminals, oil traders blend fuel streams and residues from oil refineries and chemical companies into a low-quality blend. They deliberately produce these fuels for West Africa as the standards there are not as strict. This is an easy and cheap way to get rid of residues from oil refining and chemical production.'

'The use of low-quality fuels in road transport leads to poor air quality, health problems, premature deaths, climate emissions and increased costs for vehicle owners. The costs of health problems are much higher than the costs of cleaner fuels. The Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles of the UN Environment Programme has therefore been working towards cleaner fuels worldwide since 2002. In 2018, the ILT noticed fuel with high levels of harmful substances being exported from the Netherlands to countries outside Europe, especially West Africa. But these toxic substances destroy emission control devices and are harmful to human health and the environment.'

'As the Netherlands wanted to change this, the ILT entered into dialogue with the industry about its duty of care under the Dutch Environmental Management Act. The duty of care article on substances and mixtures states that: if you know or could reasonably have known that something is harmful to humans and the environment, you must take measures that can be reasonably expected from you to limit that damage.With the policy rule, the ILT has ensured a level playing field, so that all fuel traders operating in the Netherlands comply with the same rules. These rules set requirements for the quality of fuels produced for low- and middle-income countries outside Europe to prevent excessive air pollution.'

'The ILT now observes improved quality of export fuel with the policy rule. There has been better compliance. However, compliance is not a given and enforcement still needs attention. And there is always risk that blending of poor-quality fuels is shifted to other regions.An international level playing field is important. Therefore, the Netherlands and the UN Environment Programme organised a meeting in Nairobi in 2022. Participating African countries called for stricter and harmonised rules by both importing and exporting countries.'

'Belgium has announced similar measures as the Netherlands has put in place. By joining forces with Belgium, the improved fuel quality will lead to less air pollution in West Africa as well as in other regions of the world. We hope other countries will also follow this approach. Several internationally operating banks already ensure that companies follow the policy rule.'

'This is a story of change. It shows that systems can improve and where governments and global companies are taking social responsibility.'


On-screen: Logo Dutch government, Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate, Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. Want to know more about what the ILT does to improve fuel quality? Then visit english.ilent.nl/fuel-quality.