Petrol Quality in Australia is at least 13 years behind Europe!

Australia the third world country

Australia has continued it’s backward slide by delaying the move to higher quality petrol until at least 2027. The current levels of sulphur in petrol in Australia was banned in 2009 in Europe.

  • 91 RON regular unleaded – 150ppm (unchanged since 1/1/2005)
  • 95 RON premium unleaded – 50ppm (unchanged since 1/1/2008)
  • 98 RON premium unleaded – 50ppm (unchanged since 1/1/2008)

The petroleum industry claimed that it needed eight years to upgrade the four remaining refineries in Australia at a cost of $979 million or it would have to shut them down. The refineries are located;

  • Brisbane – Caltex
  • Geelong – Viva/Shell
  • Melbourne – Mobile
  • Perth – BP

The delay in moving to low sulphur petrol means increased costs in buying vehicles in Australia as engines need re-calibration and some variants of engine are not available at all due to the costs which run into millions of dollars.

Is Australia really a third world country?

With regards to petrol quality the answer is a resounding yes.

Out of the 36 countries in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Australia has the worst petrol quality.

Out of 100 countries Australia at the start of 2018 was ranked number 73 after falling three places from the previous year. A number of other countries have since transitioned to lower sulphur so Australia is likely down between 80 and 90 currently.

Maximum Gasoline Sulfur Limits (2018)
More countries are changing over to 50ppm or lower by 2020 so this will leave Australia near the bottom of the top 100. It is likely within a few years that Australia will out of the top 100 list.
Australia is one of the few countries that do not have petrol that matches emission standards!

Lagging behind Europe

Europe adopted new fuel standards way and as usual Australia lagged so far behind, it is likely that with a staged introduction planned in 2027 for the new fuels that we will not be totally on 10ppm fuel until sometime in the 2030’s especially if we allow the fuel companies who rake in huge profits to dictate the change. In fact Europe already has Euro 6.2 and Australia is till thinking about Euro 6 for 2027 onwards.

  • Euro 2 | Europe 1996 | Australia 2003-2004* (8 years behind)
  • Euro 3 | Europe 1996 | Australia 2005-2006* (10 years behind)
  • Euro 4 | Europe 2000 | Australia 2008-2010* (10 years behind)
  • Euro 5 | Europe 2009 | Australia 2013-2016* (7 years behind)
  • Euro 6 | Europe 2014 | Australia 2027+ (13+ years behind)

*European year applies to all vehicles whereas Australia applies the first year to new vehicle models and the second year to all vehicles sold.

Source | Emission Requirements for new petrol passenger cars in Australia and European Emission Standards.

Volkswagen pushing for higher fuel standards and emissions

Volkswagen Australia managing director, Michael Bartsch, has called for Australia’s fuel standards and emissions testing to be dragged into line with the latest European rules, lest we become a “dumping ground” for old engine technology.

Speaking at a briefing in Sydney this week, the executive said our current fuel standards put Australia at risk of becoming a “second-tier” market, and argued the transition to higher-quality, lower-sulphur fuel was as important as the switch from leaded to unleaded petrol.

“We’re becoming outsiders,” Bartsch (pictured below) told journalists. “It won’t be long before vehicles are going to have to be produced purely for these really poor sulphur content countries,” he said, speaking of Australia’s fuel standards.

At the moment, local regulations allow 50 parts per million (ppm) of sulphur in premium unleaded, and 150ppm in regular unleaded petrol. European rules allow a maximum of 10ppm. We’re ranked 70th in the world for fuel quality, largely due to this sulphur content.

Bartsch didn’t pull any punches when addressing this point of view, suggesting the AAA and fuel companies are misleading the public on the issue.

“The fuel companies are pulling wool over people’s eyes, the AAA is pulling wool over people’s eyes as to what the real-world environment is,” he told assembled press.

“We’ll start seeing a lot of options drop off in terms of powertrains and engines that we can get,” he later argued, prompted about the timeline laid out by the AAA.

“What you’ll start seeing is that we’ll start getting lower common denominator products and… we’ll start paying more for the cars, because they’ll start doing special testing and special engine runs, and keeping old model lines alive, and putting old engines down the production line to keep a few markets going,” Bartsch explained.

“How long do you think that’s sustainable for a country that only sells a million cars a year. It’s not sustainable.”

Fuel standards are in the firing line

Volkswagen has said the following which they encouraged their dealers to share with their local member of parliament.

The advent of Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) this year in Europe will, in combination with Australia’s lack of progress in moving toward the Euro 6 emissions regime, impact adversely on car buyers.

As of next year, Australians will no longer be able to access many of the world’s best practice and most efficient cars.

Cars that are fitted with a petrol particulate filter cannot run on Australia’s fuel which has an exceedingly high sulphur content – some 50 parts per million [PULP] as opposed to the European standard of less than 10, the letter continues.

The new Volkswagen 1.4 litre petrol engine cannot be introduced to Australia as it has a petrol particulate filter that requires fuel of 10ppm or lower.

Petrol Particulate Filter

Petrol engined cars with petrol particulate filters required for new European emission controls will not be able to fitted to Australian delivered models because of our third world fuel quality standards.

Whilst they can run in the short term on 50ppm 95 and 98 RON fuel they will be destroyed after one tank of 150ppm 91 RON.

Porsche has joined other Volkswagen Group cars by not bringing petrol particulate filters to Australia because of the poor quality of fuel.

“The majority of petrol sold in Australia is imported, so there is no reason why European standard petrol could not be imported at a negligible costs at the bowser. Surely better fuel quality is in everyone’s interest.”

Volkswagen Group spokesman, Paul Pottinger

Why does it matter?

The most popular fuel in Australia is 91 RON which has 150ppm sulphur which is amongst the dirtiest fuel in the world, this creates sulphur dioxide which creates breathing problems and is the cause of acid rain. High levels of sulphur also increase wear on the engine and don’t burn as efficiently as low sulphur fuels meaning you get less mileage from each tank of fuel costing you more.

Another issue is that this limits the choice of vehicles on the market as some engines are not suitable or require extensive work which lowers their performance.

Further Reading

Stricter Fuel Standards set to bring cleaner cars to Aussie roads

Australia’s Petrol is one of the dirtiest in the world

Australia a dumping ground for old engines