Petrol vapour recovery to become mandatory

Draft new EU legislation that would limit harmful vapour emissions from petrol pumps was proposed on 4 December by the European Commission.

Petrol vapour contains benzene, which is known to cause cancer, and contributes to the formation of ground-level ozone, one of the air pollutants that is most damaging to human health and the environment and which also contributes to global climate change. Under the proposal, petrol pumps will have to be fitted with stage II petrol vapour recovery (PVR) technology, which can recover more than 85 per cent of the vapour. New or substantially refurbished petrol stations that sell more than 500 cubic metres of petrol a year would have to fit the technology as from 1 July 2012. So would all new service stations underneath residential accommodation, irrespective of their size. Th e largest existing stations, with a throughput greater than 3,000 cubic metres would also have to install stage II PVR by 31 December 2020 at the latest.

There are some 110,000 service stations in the EU. It is estimated that in many Member States over 85–90 per cent of the stations have an annual throughput of petrol greater than 500 cubic metres, whilst the average across the EU is about 75 per cent. Already more than half of the EU Member States have national stage II PVR measures in place, and in some countries the technology has been mandatory since the 1990s. Moreover, in several countries – such as Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg and Slovenia – the PVR emission controls apply to all stations, independent of size. Member States that have not yet introduced legislation to implement these measures include: Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Malta, Portugal, Spain, the UK (will require PVR as from 2010), Bulgaria, Romania, and Croatia. Th e Community has signed but not ratified the 1991 VOC Protocol of the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP), but twenty EU Member States have signed and ratified the protocol, and another seven Member States have signed but not yet ratified.

According to the protocol’s basic obligations, parties are required to implement PVR stage II controls no later than five years after entry into force of the protocol, i.e. by 29 September 2002. Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland and Spain have ratified, but have no national implementation of stage II PVR controls. On 26 January, the European Parliament’s rapporteur Dimitrios Papadimoulis presented his draft report, in which he wants to bring the deadline forward by five years (to 31 December 2015) and extend the requirement to all existing stations with a throughput greater than 2,000 cubic metres per year. He also wants to increase the minimum capture efficiency from 85 per cent (as proposed by the Commission) to 95 per cent. Th is higher level of capture efficiency is already mandatory in Austria, California and China, for example.

A vote by the parliament’s environment committee is scheduled to take place on 31 March, and a vote in plenary is expected sometime in May.

The Commission’s proposal and background documents are available at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/air/transport/petrol.htm

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