Gasoline

 

Conventional Gasoline

Leaded Gasoline

Gasoline with a lead content greater than zero percent.

Oxygenated Gasoline

Gasoline treated with alcohol and ethers with the intent of reducing toxic emissions.

Reformulated Gasoline (RFG)

Gasoline that has been reformulated to contain no benzene, heavy metals, and a two percent minimum oxygen level.

Unleaded Gasoline

Gasoline with zero percent lead content by volume.

 

New fuel quality regulations, mandated by the federal government, require marketers and refiners to provide fuels that are cleaner burning, safer, and generally friendlier to the environment.  Similarly, consumers in mandated areas are required to use these new fuels.

The Clean Air Act of 1970, called for the elimination of lead in gasoline.  This legislation was amended in 1977 to require that gasoline emit fewer air toxins.  In 1989, the Reid Vapor Pressure requirements for gasoline were introduced.[1]  The Clean Air Act was again amended in 1990.  These revisions outlined a number of programs designed to minimize ozone, carbon monoxide, and toxic air pollutants in major cities.  Specifically, two programs outlined in this legislation affected conventional fuel formulations; the Oxygenated Gasoline Program, and the Reformulated Gasoline (RFG) Program.  The following graph displays the annual consumption of gasoline as a vehicle fuel from 2005 to 2009.


 

The U.S. consumption of gasoline has declined rapidly from 2007.  This decline can be attributed to several factors, but primarily it is believed to be caused by the current economic recession.[2] [3]

 


Chronological Summary of Legislation & Standards Impacting Conventional Gasoline

 

Chronological Summary Of Legislation And Standards
Impacting Conventional Gasoline

1967

The Air Quality Act, a basic fuel and fuel additive registration program, is established by Congress requiring refiners to identify all ingredients in their fuel formulations.  This program is established in order to control circulative air quality.

1970

The Clean Air Act (CAA) is established to address increasing air pollution.  The National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) is created for non-methane hydrocarbons, oxidants, nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, and total suspended particles.

1973

Unleaded gasoline is first introduced into the fueling market.  All vehicles with catalytic converters are required to use unleaded gasoline to reduce emissions.

1974

The Clean Air Act of 1970 mandates that all gasoline stations of a minimum size offer at least one grade of unleaded gasoline.

1977

Amendments to the Clean Air Act are established.  Regulations are designed to reduce specific pollutants, including carbon monoxide, ozone, lead, and other pollutants.

1989

The federal EPA implements Phase I RVP (Reid Vapor Pressure) requirements.  They restrict summertime gasoline volatility by requiring lower RVP levels for states in warmer climates, depending on the state.  Summertime requirements begin June 1 for retail outlets, and May 1 for all other points of distribution.  RVP requirements end annually on September 15th.

1992

Phase II RVP restrictions are implemented.  The U.S. is divided into two regions:  North (Class B) and South (Class C).

1995

On January 1, RFG replaces traditional gasoline formulations in the worst ozone non-attainment areas.

1997

Lead and lead additives are prohibited in all motor vehicle gasoline.

2000

Non-attainment areas must begin a 25 percent reduction of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and air toxic emissions.

2004

A 1999 EPA proposal would establish the average level of sulfur in gasoline as 30 parts per million (ppm) by 2004.  The maximum amount of sulfur allowed in gasoline, for averaging purposes, would be 80 ppm after a three-year phase-in.[4]  In addition, the EPA is proposing a standard for all 2004 model year and later vehicles to establish a standard of one gram per mile of nitrogen oxides for vehicles weighing between 10,001 to 14,000 pounds.  Vehicles between 8,500 to 10,000 pounds would have to meet the 0.9-gram per mile standard.[5]

2005

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 increases the amount of biofuel (usually ethanol) that must be mixed with gasoline sold in the United States to 4 billion gallons by 2006, 6.1 billion gallons by 2009 and 7.5 billion gallons by 2012

 

The Winter Oxygenated Fuel Program

Oxygenates are fuel additives (alcohols and ethers) that contain oxygen which can boost gasoline's octane quality (the measure of a fuel’s anti-knock performance), enhance combustion, and reduce exhaust emissions.  The term oxygenated gasoline most commonly refers to the wintertime program that reduces emissions of carbon monoxide (CO) from motor vehicles.  Although required by the federal Clean Air Act, winter oxygenated gasoline programs are implemented by the states.

Under the Clean Air Act of 1990, regulations and guidelines for winter oxygenated fuel and reformulated gasoline programs were established in a regulatory negotiation process.  The Winter Oxygenated Fuel Program was initiated as a way to control carbon monoxide (CO) emissions in 36 metropolitan areas where CO levels were high.  The Reformulated Gasoline Program was started in 1995 as a means to reduce ozone and other toxic emissions in cities where ozone levels are high.[6]

Oxygenated fuels are required to have 2.7 percent weight in oxygen.  Oxygenates, such as ethanol, are in oxygenated fuels to dilute sulfur, olefins, and aromatics contributing to CO, nitrogen oxides (NOx), VOCs, and other toxins.  Oxygenates decrease dependence on imported fuels.  Oxygenates help ethanol producers because 85 percent of oxygenated fuels contain ethanol.[7]

Reformulated Gasoline Program

The Clean Air Act of 1990 mandated that reformulated gasoline which is designed to reduce emissions of smog-forming and toxic pollutants be used for consumption in metropolitan areas in the United States that have the worst ozone air pollution problems.  Other cities and counties with smog problems may opt-in or volunteer to join the program.  Areas that opt-in to the program may leave or opt-out of the program upon approval from the EPA.  The primary goals of the RFG program are the reduction of ozone levels and toxins (such as benzene) in order to improve air quality.[8]

In the Clean Air Act, Congress specified that RFG contain oxygen, two percent by weight.  MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) and ethanol are the two most commonly used substances that add oxygen to gasoline.  Oil companies decide which substance to use to meet the law's requirements.

The first phase of the RFG program, which began in 1995, set out to reduce ozone-forming emissions by 64,000 tons annually in areas affected by the RFG program.  According to a study by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, the first phase reduced cancer risk from gasoline by approximately 12 percent. 

The second phase of the RFG program began in 2000.  Phase II aims to reduce ozone emissions by an additional 41,000 tons annually in RFG areas.  The second phase was expected to reduce cancer risk by 19 percent.[9]  The RFG program, in both phases, was expected to reduce toxins, such as benzene, by 24,000 tons annually, in affected areas.

 



RFG Program Goals[10]

 

VOC

Reductions

NOx

Reductions

Toxins

Reductions

Benzene

Emissions

Oxygen

Content

RFG Phase I

(1995-1999)

 

15%

 

1.5%

 

15%

 

1% cap

 

2% weight

RFG Phase II

(2000 and beyond)

 

27%

 

6.8%

 

22%

 

1% cap

 

2% weight

 

According to the EPA, the emission reductions in areas affected by the RFG program have exceeded the program’s requirements annually since 1995.[11]  In addition, RFG consists of 30 percent of the gasoline used in the U.S.[12]

Oxygenate/MTBE Additives

The use of the additive MTBE has become controversial over the years since traces of the chemical were found in drinking water all over the country and especially in California.  Leaking storage tanks are the number one cause of gasoline contamination of water. 

Many chemicals in gasoline, including MTBE, can be harmful in water.  MTBE is highly soluble and travels faster and farther in water than other gasoline components.  MTBE has a strong taste and odor, so even small amounts of MTBE in water can make a water supply distasteful. 

Because of this concern, a committee, called The MTBE Blue Ribbon Panel was created in 1999 by a Charter from the Clean Air Act Advisory Committee to provide independent advice and counsel to the EPA on policy issues associated with the use of MTBE and other oxygenates in gasoline.  In January 2004, MTBE was phased out of use in California and replaced with Ethanol. [13]  It did not take long for most states to begin following suit.  As of August of 2007, 25 states had complete or partial bans on MTBE use as a gasoline additive.[14]  These bans coupled with the emergence of ethanol as a viable gasoline additive has resulted in an end to MTBE consumption.

 


 

The U.S consumption of MTBE phased out in 2007.  As a result, the consumption of ethanol in gasohol increased by an average of 16.5% annually from 2007 to 2011.[15]

 




[1] Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) is a requirement first introduced in 1989, which is designed to reduce evaporative emissions during the summer months when ambient temperatures are their highest.  RVP is measured in pounds per square inch (psi).  The lower the psi in gasoline, the less evaporative emissions that generally will occur.  (www.arb.ca.gov/fuels/gasoline/rvp/rvp.htm), (May 23, 2013).

[2] U.S. Energy Information Administration, Estimated Consumption of Vehicle Fuels in Thousand Gasoline Equivalent Gallons, by Fuel Type, 2007 - 2011, http://www.eia.gov/renewable/afv/index.cfm, (May 22, 2013).

[3] Gasoline consumption includes ethanol in gasohol.

[4] Havill & Company Inc., U.S. Commercial Fleet Market Forecast, (May 23, 2013).

[5] Havill & Company Inc., U.S. Commercial Fleet Market Forecast, (May 23, 2013).

[6] Havill & Company Inc., U.S. Commercial Fleet Market Forecast, (May 23, 2013).

[7] Havill & Company Inc., U.S. Commercial Fleet Market Forecast, (May 23, 2013).

[8] Havill & Company Inc., U.S. Commercial Fleet Market Forecast, (May 23, 2013).

[9] Havill & Company Inc., U.S. Commercial Fleet Market Forecast, (May 23, 2013).

[10] Havill & Company Inc., U.S. Commercial Fleet Market Forecast, (May 23, 2013).

[11] Havill & Company Inc., U.S. Commercial Fleet Market Forecast, (May 23, 2013).

[12] Havill & Company Inc., U.S. Commercial Fleet Market Forecast, (May 23, 2013).

[13] U.S. EPA, State Actions Banning MTBE, http://www.epa.gov/mtbe/420b07013.pdf, (May 23, 2013).

[14] U.S. EPA, State Actions Banning MTBE, http://www.epa.gov/mtbe/420b07013.pdf, (May 23, 2013).

[15] U.S. Energy Information Administration, Estimated Consumption of Vehicle Fuels in Thousand Gasoline Equivalent Gallons, by Fuel Type, 2007 - 2011, http://www.eia.gov/renewable/afv/index.cfm, (May 22, 2013).