Indian Oil Corp (IOC), the nation's biggest oil firm, has begun the supply of the world's cleanest petrol and diesel across the country with all its 28,000 petrol pumps dispensing ultra-low sulphur fuel two weeks before the April 1 deadline.
"We have successfully rolled out the supply of BS-VI grade fuel across the country," IOC Chairman Sanjiv Singh said. "All our 28,000 petrol pumps across the country are dispensing BS-VI grade fuel for more than a week now."
Other fuel retailers, Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL), are also progressively supplying BS-VI grade fuel and the entire country will switch to the cleanest fuel within this week.
The government had set April 1 as the deadline for starting supply of Euro-VI emission compliant fuels. With this India joins the select league of nations using petrol and diesel containing just 10 parts per million of sulphur in an attempt to cut vehicular emissions that are said to be one of the reasons for the choking pollution in major cities.
"We have leapfrogged from BS-IV (equivalent to Euro-VI grade fuel) straight to BS-VI in just three years," the IOC chairman said adding this is an achievement not seen in any large economies around the globe.
Singh, whose firm controls roughly half of the country's fuel market, said almost all the company's refineries began producing ultra-low sulphur BS-VI (equivalent to Euro-VI grade) petrol and diesel by the end of 2019 and thereafter the mammoth exercise was undertaken to replace every drop of fuel in the country with the new one.
"We have achieved the switchover without a single disruption," he said.
This comes at a time when the nation battling outbreak of coronavirus imposed restrictions and states declared part lockdowns. India adopted Euro-III equivalent (or Bharat Stage-III) fuel with a sulphur content of 350 ppm in 2010 and then took seven years to move to BS-IV that had a sulphur content of 50 ppm. From BS-IV to BS-VI it took just three years. "It was a conscious decision to leapfrog to BS-VI as first upgrading to BS-V and then shifting to BS-VI would have prolonged the journey to 4 to 6 years. Besides, oil refineries, as well as automobile manufacturers, would have had to make investments twice - first to producing BS-V grade fuel and engines and then BS-VI ones," he said.
State-owned oil refineries spent about Rs 35,000 crore to upgrade plants that could produce ultra-low sulphur fuel. This investment is on top of Rs 60,000 crore they spent on refinery upgrades in the previous switchovers.
BS-VI has a sulphur content of just 10 ppm and emission standards are as good as CNG.
Originally, Delhi and its adjoining towns were to have BS-VI fuel supplies by April 2019 and the rest of the country was to get the same supplies from April 2020. But oil marketing companies switched over to supply of BS-VI grade fuels in the national capital territory of Delhi on April 1, 2018. The supply of BS-VI fuels was further extended to four contiguous districts of Rajasthan and eight of Uttar Pradesh in the National Capital Region (NCR) on April 1, 2019, together with the city of Agra. BS-VI grade fuels were made available in seven districts of Haryana from October 1, 2019.
The new fuel will result in a reduction in NOx in BS-VI compliant vehicles by 25 per cent in petrol cars and by 70 per cent in diesel cars.
India adopted a fuel upgradation programme in the early 1990s. Low lead gasoline (petrol) was introduced in 1994 in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. On February 1, 2000, unleaded gasoline was mandated nationwide. Similarly, BS-2000 (Euro-I equivalent, BS-1) vehicle emission norms were introduced for new vehicles from April 2000. BS-II (Euro-II equivalent) emission norms for new cars were introduced in Delhi from 2000 and extended to the other metro cities in 2001. Benzene limits have been reduced progressively from 5 per cent in 2000 to 1 per cent nationwide. Lead content in gasoline was removed in phases and only unleaded gasoline is being produced and sold from February 1, 2000.
The octane number of gasoline signifies the improved performance of the engine. Loss in octane number due to phasing out of lead was made up by installing new facilities in the refinery and changes in refinery operation. RON (Research Octane Number) of gasoline for BS-2000 spec was increased to 88. This has over time been increased to 91.
Singh said sulphur reduction will reduce Particulate Matter (PM) emissions even in the in-use older generation diesel vehicles.