Five west African countries ban ‘dirty diesel’ from Europe
Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast to block imports from oil companies and traders of diesel with sulphur levels many times European limit
Tuesday 6 December 2016 11.02 GMT
Five west African countries have announced measures to end the practice of European oil companies and traders exporting “African quality” diesel – highly polluting fuels that could never be sold in Europe.
Swiss commodity traders were accused in a report published in September by Swiss NGO Public Eye of exporting fuels to west Africa with sulphur levels that are sometimes hundreds of times higher than European levels.
The report accused oil companies of “regulatory arbitrage”, allowing traders and companies to exploit weak standards to export cheap, dirty fuels in a process that Public Eye said was maximising profits at the expense of African’s health. High-sulphur fuels are major contributors to respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and asthma.
Last week Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Ivory Coast agreed to ban imports of high-sulphur diesel fuels as part of an initiative organised by the UN Environment Programme. Permitted levels of sulphur in imported diesel will fall from as high as 3,000 parts per million (ppm) in some of the countries to 50 ppm. In Europe the maximum has been 10 ppm since 2009.
There is nothing illegal about the practice exposed by Public Eye’s report, and the blending of fuels to achieve particular specifications before export is standard industry practice. Companies identified in the report said they comply with the fuel standards imposed by the governments they ship to, and support efforts, including those by the African Refiners Association, to improve fuel standards.
Erik Solheim, the head of UN Environment, said: “West Africa is sending a strong message that it is no longer accepting dirty fuels from Europe. Their decision to set strict new standards for cleaner, safer fuels and advanced vehicle emission standards shows they are placing the health of their people first.”