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ASEAN representatives discuss the necessity of harmonised quality standards for fuels and vehicles

Representatives from Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia discussed the necessity of harmonized quality standards for fuels and vehicles during F+L Week 2015 at the Pan Pacific Singapore.  Each of them stressed the need for not only clean fuels, but for the harmonisation of fuel standards within and across geographical areas.

Organised by Manila-based Clean Air Asia, the individual country presentations were followed by a panel discussion that was webcast live globally through a sponsorship by the Singapore-based Asian Clean Fuels Association (ACFA).

“That is what is on the table—not necessarily having all of ASEAN following the same standards at the same time, but encouraging all countries to make it a priority,” commented Glynda Bathan, deputy executive director of Clean Air Asia, who chaired the session.

Ruengsak Thitiratsakul, deputy executive director of the Petroleum Institute of Thailand (PTIT), outlined how the ASEAN countries vary widely in terms of which standards they follow, ranging between Euro I and Euro V. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is comprised of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The benefits that could be gained from harmonisation of these standards, he said, are social, environmental and economic.

“Imagine how trade can be easily done, imagine how product exchange can be easily done,” he said, not to mention the lessening of risks to the environment and human health.

In November 2014 at a workshop called “The Harmonisation of Quality Standards for Transportation Fuels and Biofuels within ASEAN,” an ASEAN-member survey revealed the unanimous opinion that improving fuel quality standards is necessary and beneficial to ASEAN.

Members also agreed that a working group for the harmonisation initiative needs to be established. In order to establish such a task force, the issue first has to be taken up by the Senior Officials’ Meeting on Energy (SOME), a body within the ASEAN Centre for Energy. The issue is being debated within the group.

Dasrul Chaniago, director of mobile source pollution control at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry in Indonesia, shared that Indonesia has been discussing moving to Euro IV since 2013, and that the implementation of Euro IV standards still requires one more phase. Specifically, the ministry is in talks with Pertamina, the state-owned oil company, to see if the higher-quality fuel can be sold at an affordable price. Price disparity is a main barrier to the use of cleaner fuels in most places, Dasrul said.

The session also included a presentation from Mohd Nazmi bin Mohd Nur, head of the research unit at the Malaysian Automotive Institute. Currently, both gasoline and diesel in Malaysia follow Euro II standards, although in 2014, 13 stations started selling Euro V fuel in Johor. By 2015, he expects Euro V fuel to be available to all other states, especially in the Klang Valley.

The Malaysian government has been trying to encourage better air quality by promoting public transportation, but as Mohd Nur says, private vehicle ownership is still very much in demand. This is why it encourages environmentally friendly vehicle programs and encourages OEMs to produce fuel-efficient vehicles.

As the demand for individually owned vehicles continue to grow in most Asian countries for the next few years, the question of how to keep the air clean will only become more pertinent. As each of these speakers showed, it takes an enormous amount of effort to bring about the necessity of policy harmonisation to the forefront of government and societal conscience.