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Transport & Environment

Petrol Storage & Distribution

What is the problem?

Petrol is a complex mixture of volatile organic compounds (VOC) which readily evaporate into the air where they contribute to several pollution problems. These include excessive levels of toxic benzene in ambient air and photochemical formation of ozone which is an air pollutant causing respiratory illnesses such as asthma. In addition ozone is a greenhouse gas.

What has been done?

There are two directives addressing the issue:

  • Directive 1994/63/EC (aka Stage I Petrol Vapour Recovery) aims at preventing VOC emissions during the storage of petrol at terminals and its subsequent distribution to service stations. The Directive contains measures that terminals should employ such as floating roofs and reflective coatings so as to reduce evaporative losses from storage tanks. In addition when petrol is loaded onto tankers and transported to service stations the directive ensures that any vapours are recovered and returned to the tanker or terminal.
  • Directive 2009/126/EC (aka Stage II Petrol Vapour Recovery) ensures the recovery of petrol vapour that would otherwise be emitted to the air during the refuelling of vehicles at service stations.

Both Directives have significantly reduced the amount of VOC emissions from petrol storage, distribution and refuelling.

Evaluation of the two directives

In 2015 the Commission, assisted by an external consultant, will carry out an extensive evaluation of the effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, relevance and the EU added value of the two Directives. This is part of the European Commission's Regulatory Fitness and Performance program (aka REFIT) to make EU law lighter, simpler and less costly. In addition an assessment of the implementation status will be carried out. This work will also include the evaluation required under Article 7 of Directive 2009/126/EC. The tentative timetable is as follows:

  • 3rd and 4th quarter 2014: preparatory work
  • 3rd and 4th quarter 2014: preparatory work3rd and 4th quarter 2014: preparatory work
  • 1st and 2nd quarter 2015: consultation of stakeholders by survey and interview
  • 3rd quarter 2015: workshop presenting the preliminary results
  • 4th quarter 2015: publication of the consultancy study
  • 2016: finalisation of evaluation

We will make related documents available in our public CIRCABC interest group. This includes for example the evaluation mandate, the terms of references for the contract with the consultancy or reports.

Where can I find more information about the Directives and VOC?

The text of the Directives and all related legal documents are available through the links above.

Complementary documents such as related studies are available in our public CIRCABC interest group

The European Environment Agency provides statistical data about VOC emissions in Europe in their VOC air pollution indicator APE004.

What can I do?

  • With very simple steps you can reduce the environmental and health impact of petrol use. Here are some:
  • Avoid petrol spills when refuelling your vehicle.
  • Do not overfill your tank, in particular not when temperatures are high or changing quickly from cold to hot.
  • Make sure that any extra fuel you may carry is transported in safe and tightly closed containers.