New Fuel Quality Directive 

The recently adopted Directive 2009/30/EC sets environmental requirements for petrol and diesel fuel in order to reduce their air pollutant emissions. These requirements consist of technical specifications for fuel content and binding targets to reduce fuels’ greenhouse gas emissions during their life cycle.


Directive 98/70/EC set minimum specifications for petrol and diesel fuels for environmental and health reasons. Article 9 of the Directive foresaw its revision if the following occurs:

·      Progress in vehicle pollutant emissions.

·      Evolution in the EU’s CO2 strategy.

·      Development of alternative fuels.

Due to significant progress in vehicle technology and the development and better availability of biofuels, the Commission decided in January 2007 to propose a review of the specifications for fuel quality contained in the Directive.

Aim of the Directive

The aim of this Directive is to reduce the emission of key air pollutants released during the production and combustion of fuel. It also aims to help achieve the EU’s greenhouse gas reduction target of 20% by 2020 (or 30% if a global agreement succeeding to the Kyoto Protocol is reached in Copenhagen in December 2009). These aims will be achieved through:

·      Setting technical specifications for the content of fuels used in road vehicles and non-road mobile machinery (including inland waterway vessels), tractors and recreational craft.

·      Setting targets to reduce life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from fuel. Life cycle greenhouse gas emissions concern CO2, CH4, and N2O emissions that can be assigned to fuel at all stages from extraction or cultivation to combustion including transport, distribution, processing and land-use changes.

Technical specifications

These technical specifications concern fuel for positive-ignition engines and compression-ignition engines. They consist of minimum and/or maximum limits for elements such as distillation, hydrocarbon analysis, oxygenates, octane number, oxygen, sulphur and lead content. These specifications are set out in Annex I and II of the Directive.


Suppliers must ensure that their fuel complies with the requirements set in Annex I. In particular:

·      Sulphur content is limited to 10 mg/kg.

·      Lead content is limited to 0,005g/l.

·      Percentage evaporated at 150% is minimum 75% v/v.

·      Oxygen content is maximum 3,7% m/m.

·      The vapour pressure in summer period is maximum 60 kPa.

·      Ethanol content is maximum 3 %v/v.


Suppliers must ensure that their fuel complies with the requirements set in Annex II. In particular:

·      Sulphur content is maximum 10 mg/kg.

·      Density at 15°C must be maximum 845 kg/m.

·      FAME (fatty acid methyl ester) content is m        inimum 7% v/v.

Metallic additives

The use of metallic additive methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl (MMT) in fuel is limited to 6 mg/l from 2011. The limit will decrease to 2 mg/l from 2014. In addition fuel will have to carry a label indicating the presence of MMT.


In order to boost the use of biofuels while keeping blends under an acceptable level of vapour pressure, the Directive provides for a derogation regarding vapour pressure for bioethanol blends. The vapour pressure waiver for bioethanol/petrol blends is contained in Annex III.  The Directive also establishes a derogation for vapour pressure in summer for Member States whose average summer temperatures are below 12°C (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden and the United Kingdom). The vapour pressure limit established is 70 kPa instead of 60kPa. Member States may also allow the placing on the market of diesel fuel with a FAME content exceeding 7%.

Binding Targets

The Directive sets targets to reduce fuel’s life cycle greenhouse gas emissions. It places the responsibility of reducing greenhouse gas emissions during the life cycle of fuel on fuel suppliers.

·      From 2011 fuel suppliers will be bound to report annually to Member States on the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions per unit of fuel supplied.

·      Suppliers will have to gradually reduce fuel greenhouse gas emissions of 6% by 2020. Member States may choose to expand this reduction up to 10%. They may also choose to set the intermediate targets of 2% by 2014 and 4 % by 2017.

·      Suppliers will also have to reach an additional indicative reduction target of 2% by 2020 by either supplying electric vehicles or using greenhouse gas reducing technologies (including carbon capture and storage technology).

·      Another indicative target of 2% by 2020 is to be achieved by the purchase of credits through the Clean Development Mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol. The last two targets are subject to review.

The use of biofuels and sustainability criteria

To reach the abovementioned targets, the Directive advocates greater use of biofuels. This should encourage an increased production of biofuels worldwide, potentially contributing to an impaired loss in biodiversity and competition for land-use. The Directive therefore introduces sustainability criteria to be fulfilled by biofuels. In order to take biofuels into account in calculating greenhouse gas emission savings necessary to reach the targets, operators must only use biofuels that fulfill the sustainability criteria.

These criteria rule out biofuels originating from the following:

·      Primary forest

·      Protected areas

·      Highly biodiverse grassland

·      Raw materials with high carbon stock

·      Peatland

Economic operators must show that sustainability criteria are met using a mass balance system. The calculation of life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels will be calculated with default values for greenhouse gas emission savings.

Entry into force

This Directive was adopted on 23/04/09 and it entered into force on 25/06/09. Member States will have to transpose the Directive into national legislation by 31/12/10. The Directive was published in the EU’s Official Journal on 05/06/09 under the title “Directive 2009/30/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 amending Directive 98/70/EC as regards the specification of petrol, diesel and gas-oil and introducing a mechanism to monitor and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and amending Council Directive 1999/32/EC as regards the specification of fuel used by inland waterway vessels and repealing Directive 93/12/EEC” (OJ L 140; 05/06/09).

The Commission will report to the European Parliament and the Council on several aspects of the Directive, in particular, sustainability criteria and the calculation of greenhouse gas emissions savings.