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Petrol storage & distribution

What is the problem?

Petrol is a complex mixture of volatile organic compounds (VOC) which readily evaporate contributing to several environmental problems. These include excessive levels of toxic benzene in ambient air and photochemical formation of ozone. Ground level ozone is an air pollutant causing respiratory illnesses such as asthma and a greenhouse gas contributing to global warming.

What has been done?

Two directives specifically address this issue:

Directive 1994/63/EC (Stage I Petrol Vapour Recovery) aims at preventing VOC emissions during petrol storage at terminals and its subsequent distribution to service stations. The Directive contains measures terminals should employ to reduce evaporative losses from storage tanks, such as floating roofs and reflective coatings. It also requires, when petrol is loaded on tankers and transported to service stations, the recovery of vapours and their return to the tanker or terminal.

Directive 2009/126/EC (Stage II Petrol Vapour Recovery) ensures the recovery of petrol vapour that would otherwise be emitted to the air during vehicles refuelling at service stations. Commission Directive 2014/99/EU subsequently adapted this Directive to technical progress with regard to the use of Standard EN 16321-2:2013 to measure petrol vapour capture efficiency.

In addition some of the activities involved in petrol storage & distribution, such as refineries are covered by the Industrial Emission Directive.

What effect have the Petrol Recovery Directives had?

In 2017, the Commission completed a REFIT evaluation of both Directives. This concluded that Directive 1994/63/EC has led to about a 59% reduction in annual VOC emissions from the activities it covers. This corresponds to about 2% of the VOC emission reductions achieved since 1995. The current emissions of the activities controlled by this Directive represent around 0.1% of total EU-28 man-made VOC emissions.

It is harder to identify the impact of Directive 2009/126/EC itself. However, around 54% of the reduction in VOC emissions it covers are believed to result from the fitting of Stage II vapour recovery equipment. This corresponds to about 1% of the total reductions of anthropogenic VOC emissions since 1995. The current emissions of the activities controlled by this Directive represent about 0.6% of total EU-28 man-made VOC emissions.

Overall the evaluation confirmed that the legislation is working well. Full details of the evaluation may be found in the published report. A Commission Staff Working Document gives the overall results of the evaluation.

In 2017 the Commission also published a report on implementation of Directive 2009/126/EC.

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

Further information related to the Directives, such as study reports, are available from the public CIRCABC interest group.

Archived information on total VOC emissions in Europe up to 2012, with projections to 2020, is available at the EEA’s VOC air pollution indicator.

What can I do?

You can reduce the environmental and health impact of your petrol use by:

  • Avoiding petrol spills when refuelling your vehicle;
  • Not overfilling your tank, in particular when temperatures are high or changing quickly from cold to hot;
  • Making sure that any extra petrol you transport is in safe, tightly closed containers.