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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

15 July 2001

Hill Announces National Fuel Standards


Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill today announced standards limiting levels of MTBE (Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether) and olefins in petrol, to take effect from 1 January 2004.

"The new one percent MTBE standard (a limit of one percent by volume of MTBE in the makeup of petrol) will not take effect until 2004, and provides a reasonable timeframe for importers to source supplies of petrol meeting these appropriate standards," Senator Hill said.

"Local refineries do not use MTBE now, but it is commonly used in Asia."

"Likewise, importers may need to make new arrangements to meet the standard for olefins which have been limited to an 18% six month pool average with a cap of 20% from 1 January 2004."

Concerns have been expressed about the potential risk that MTBE poses to groundwater. MTBE breaks down slowly so water which becomes contaminated by MTBE may not be useable for human consumption.

At high levels, olefins are unstable, tending to decompose and form gums, which are deposited in engines. These types of deposit reduce the efficiency of the engine, and therefore fuel efficiency. Combustion and/or evaporation of olefins contribute to key air pollutants including carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrous oxides (NOx). NOx react in the atmosphere to create smog. Combustion of olefins also leads to formation of the toxic 1,3-butadiene.

"We are reducing the levels of olefins in petrol to world's best practice levels," Senator Hill said.

"Australia's new fuel quality standards bring this country in line with international best practice in Europe, and represent this Government's commitment to facilitating the adoption of better, cleaner engine technology and emission control technology. They also take into account Australia's circumstances, by addressing potential risks that widespread use of MTBE poses to our water resources."

Senator Hill said the new fuel standards for MTBE and olefins were critical to achieving the Government's environmental objectives.

"The new fuel standards will lead to lower vehicle emissions and cleaner air, which is good for our environment and for our health," Senator Hill said.

"As a whole, national fuel standards will help reduce the number of serious respiratory illnesses and asthma cases, particularly in children. The savings associated with their introduction are expected to be around $3 billion over the next 20 years."

The standards for MTBE and olefins complete the package of new environmental standards for fuel. The rest of the standards were announced on 8 May 2001 (see attached table).

Date: Sunday, July 15, 2001
Contact: Belinda Huppatz (Senator Hill's office) 0419 258 364


Fuel Quality Standards - Petrol
Parameter National standard Grade Date of effect
Sulfur 500 ppm (max)
150 ppm (max)
150 ppm (max)
ULP/LRP
PULP
All grades
1 Jan 2002

1 Jan 2005
Research octane number (RON) 91 RON (min)
95 RON (min)
96 RON (min)
ULP
PULP
LRP
1 Jan 2002
Distillation FBP 210C (max) All grades 1 Jan 2005
Olefins 18% pool average over 6 months with a cap of 20%
18% max by vol
All grades

All grades
1 Jan 2004

1 Jan 2005
Aromatics 45% pool average over 6 months with a cap of 48%
42% pool average over 6 months with a cap of 45%
All grades 1 Jan 2002

1 Jan 2005
Benzene 1% max by vol All grades 1 Jan 2006
Lead 0.005g/L (max) All grades 1 Jan 2002
Oxygen content 2.7% v/v (max) All grades (no ethanol) 1 Jan 2002
Phosphorus 0.0013g/L (max) ULP, PULP 1 Jan 2002
Ethanol Standard (limit) to be set within 12 months.
MTBE (Methyl tertiary-butyl ether) 1% by volume (max) All grades 1 Jan 2004
DIPE (Di-isopropropyl ether) 1% by volume (max) All grades 1 Jan 2002
ETBE (Ethyl tertiary-butyl ether) 1% by volume (max) All grades 1 Jan 2002
TAME (Tertiary amyl methyl ether) 1% by volume (max) All grades 1 Jan 2002
ETAE (Ethyl tertiary amyl ether) 1% by volume (max) All grades 1 Jan 2002
TBA (Tertiary butyl alcohol) 0.5% by volume (max) All grades 1 Jan 2002
Fuel Quality Standards - Diesel
Parameter Proposed standard Date of effect
Sulfur 500 ppm
50 ppm
31 Dec 2002
1 Jan 2006
Cetane Index 46 (min) index 1 Jan 2002
Density 820 to 860 kg/m3
820 to 850 kg/m3
1 Jan 2002
1 Jan 2006
Distillation T95 370C (max)
360C (max)
1 Jan 2002
1 Jan 2006
Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) 11% m/m (max) 1 Jan 2006
Ash and suspended solids 100 ppm (max) 1 Jan 2002
Viscosity 2.0 to 4.5 cSt @ 40C 1 Jan 2002
Commonwealth of Australia