Singapore places cap on benzene

Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) will introduce a benzene limit of 1% by volume in petrol starting July 1, 2017, Singapore-based Asian Clean Fuels Association (ACFA) reported.

“The implementation date takes into account the time needed by oil companies to upgrade their facilities to meet the new limit,” an NEA spokesman said. “At present, the benzene content in petrol is not regulated.”

Benzene is a human carcinogen. Human exposure to benzene has been associated with a range of acute and long-term adverse health effects and diseases, including cancer and aplastic anaemia, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Exposure can occur occupationally and domestically as a result of the ubiquitous use of benzene-containing petroleum products, including motor fuels and solvents. Active and passive exposure to tobacco smoke is also a significant source of exposure.

Benzene is used mainly as an intermediate to make other chemicals. Because benzene has a high octane number, it is an important component of gasoline. With the phase out of leaded gasoline, benzene has made a comeback as a gasoline additive in some countries. European petrol specifications have a 1% by volume limit on benzene. In 2011, the United States Environmental Protection Agency introduced regulations which lowered the benzene content in gasoline to 0.62% by volume.

Singapore’s petroleum marketers said the benzene content in their petrol ranges from less than 1% by volume (ExxonMobil) to 3% (Shell) and 5% (Caltex).

Besides benzene, the NEA has reduced the sulphur content in petrol to 10 parts per million (ppm), from 50 ppm, also effective July 1, 2017.

These new regulations are being implemented ahead of the implementation of Euro VI emission standards for petrol vehicles in Sept. 1, 2017 and diesel vehicles on Jan. 1, 2018.