Action pour le climat

Fuel Quality

Policy

Fuels used for road transport in the EU have to meet strict quality requirements to protect human health and the environment and make sure that vehicles can safely travel from one country to another.

Common fuel quality rules help

  • reduce greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions
  • establish a single fuel market and ensure that vehicles can operate everywhere in the EU on the basis of compatible fuels.

EU legislation, the Fuel Quality Directive, requires a reduction of the greenhouse gas intensity of transport fuels by a minimum of 6% by 2020. Together with the Renewable Energy Directive, it also regulates the sustainability of biofuels.

The Fuel Quality Directive applies to

  • petrol, diesel and biofuels used in road transport
  • gasoil used in non-road-mobile machinery.

Emissions reporting covers full life-cycle

The greenhouse gas intensity of fuels is calculated on a life-cycle basis, covering emissions from extraction, processing and distribution. Emissions reductions are calculated from a 2010 baseline.

The 6% reduction target is likely to be mainly achieved through

  • the use of biofuels, electricity, less carbon intense (often gaseous) fossil fuels, and renewable fuels of non-biological origin (such as e-fuels)
  • a reduction of flaring and venting at the extraction stage of fossil fuel feedstocks.

Council Directive (EU) 2015/652 defines the method to be applied and the details for the reporting of the greenhouse gas intensity of fuels. Member States have been required to apply these rules since 21 April 2017.

There are currently no plans to extend the greenhouse gas reduction target beyond the year 2020. Instead, the Commission has proposed to address the decarbonisation of transport fuels after 2020 in the framework of a revised Renewable Energy Directive.

Fuel quality monitoring reports

Biofuel sustainability

For biofuels to count towards the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, they must meet certain sustainability criteria to minimise the undesired impacts from their production.

The Fuel Quality Directive and the Renewable Energy Directive set out the following requirements:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels must be lower than from the fossil fuel they replace – at least 50% (for installations older than 5 October 2015) and 60% for newer installations.
  • The raw materials for biofuels cannot be sourced from land with high biodiversity or high carbon stock.

Taking account of indirect land use change

As global demand for biofuels rises, their production can contribute to the conversion of land such as forests and wetlands into agricultural land, leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions.

These emissions from indirect land use change (ILUC) can significantly reduce or even wipe out the greenhouse gas savings from biofuels.

To account for this, the amount of biofuels produced from cereal and other starch-rich crops, sugars and oil crops and from energy crops grown on agricultural land that can be counted as a source of renewable energy is limited to 7% of the energy in transport in the Member States in 2020.

Reducing air pollution

The legislation also governs other elements of fuel quality, primarily linked to air pollutant emissions.

Thanks to the mandatory reduction of the sulphur content under the Fuel Quality Directive, by 2009 the average sulphur content of petrol and diesel was below 10 ppm.

Documentation

Legislation

Documents related to the development of the legislation

Implementing legislation

Upstream emission reductions

Metallic fuel additives

These documents were developed for the environmental and health risk assessment of metallic fuel additives currently available or expected to be on the market in the future.

Vapour pressure derogations

Derogations

Fuel Quality Monitoring

Reply to Greenpeace petition

Studies

Studies

High Intensity Fossil Fuels