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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 that contributes to global warming.

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.

Recent developments
In March 2017 the Commission has completed a REFIT evaluation of both Directives which confirmed their effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, relevance and EU added value and published Staff Working Document SWD(2017)65.

Also in March 2017 the Commission has prepared the report COM(2017)118 under Article 7 of Directive 2009/126/EC reviewing its implementation.

In October 2014 Commission Directive 2014/99/EU adapted Directive 2009/126/EC to technical progress with regard to the use of Standard EN 16321-2:2013 to measure the petrol vapour capture efficiency.

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.