SA moves towards cleaner vehicle fuels

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Francis Hweshe

Cape Town - As a way of contributing towards improved public health and cleaner vehicle fuels, government has slashed levels of benzene -- a known carcinogen -- in fuel from 5 percent to 1 percent.

It has also reduced the allowable levels of other benzene-related components in fuel. The sulphur level in fuel, which was 500 parts per million, was also going to be reduced to 10 parts per million.

Cleaner fuels were expected to be made available initially through, amongst others, imports, as the country already imported petroleum products.

Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said that she would want these fuels availed in two years' time. She made the remarks during a briefing in Parliament, where her department presented to the media its draft fuel specifications standards proposal. 

"We expect that the refineries will take turns in upgrading refineries to be able to produce cleaner fuels and that the last refinery conversion should be completed by 2017," she said.

The upgrading of refineries would create job opportunities as they would require new components to be fitted. In line with the Industrial Policy Action Plan, Peters expected that "local content in the component manufacturing will also be maximized."

"This should be seen as an opportunity to create jobs and manufacturing opportunities. For the vehicle manufacturers, we would want this to be an opportunity for more advanced engines to be fitted into the vehicle pool of South Africa," said the minister.

Members of the public with older cars have been assured that the changes won't affect them.

By reducing levels of exposure to carcinogens in fuel emissions, Peters said this would in turn reduce the risk of cancer for those who are exposed regularly to it. These include people such as petrol attendants and those who work in refineries.

The reduction was also motivated by the need to "enable more advanced combustion engines into our roads."

Peters said the transport sector was one of the contributors to greenhouse emissions and global climate change.

Noting the instability in North Africa and Middle East, which resulted in climbing fuel prices, she said this had also affected the country, and the public should use fuel wisely. - BuaNews

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