Whenever environmental considerations come to the forefront of the fuel quality debate, ethers emerge as an effective solution.
This is happening in some countries across the world; Mexico, for example, just renewed its commitment to the use of high-octane, clean burning ethers, mandating the use of ethers in metropolitan areas, where reducing ozone is a priority.
INCREASING RELEVANCE OF EMISSIONS REDUCTIONS IN GLOBAL CONVERSATIONS
Protecting air quality is certainly not a new concept in the fuels conversation. In fact, the increasing need to protect air quality is what drove the initial environmental regulations wave that started in the 1970s, resulting in, among other things, the elimination of lead in gasoline and the introduction of catalytic converters. This same wave mandated the use of oxygenates in fuel blends across the world. Subsequent waves from the fuel quality perspective would focus, in general, on, stricter sulfur, olefin, benzene, and aromatic limits.
As air quality in metropolitan areas improved dramatically, however, climate change became the primary concern related to the combustion of oil and gas products. Air quality, though still the object attention from regulations, fell from the top of the agenda of the mainstream energy debate. As an example, during the last decade, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has produced over 50 reports that either focus, or include significant discussions, on climate change. Up until early 2016, no report from the IEA had focused on the relationship between energy use and air quality.
AIR QUALITY: NEW KEY ELEMENT OF THE ENERGY DEBATE
But that’s changing, fast. In fact, as the IEA acknowledged with the release of its first-ever “Energy and Air Pollution” special report, the scale of the positive impact that progress on air quality would have is putting the issue back on the top of the global agenda. “To stay relevant,” Fatih Birol, the executive director of the IEA has declared recently “we need to work much closer with new emerging energy economies (on air quality issues).”
In the Americas, the trend is clear. Following results from a 2014 World Health Organization (WHO) report, several countries, including the US and Mexico, have adopted stricter air quality regulations. Ozone and particulate matter, among others, are being more intensely regulated. In tandem with these regulations, countries—including the US and Mexico—have continued to make fuel standards stricter, in an effort to improve air quality and combat climate change at the same time.
In other words, emissions efficiency has become a crucial topic in the Americas–for governments, consumers, and refiners alike.