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ecowas low sulphurThe East Africa Community was the first sub-region in the African continent to transition to low sulphur fuels in January 2015. This transition resulted in the implementation of standards allowing a maximum sulphur content of 50 ppm in diesel and 150 ppm in gasoline. In keeping with the need for continuous improvement, the sub-region is planning to further improve the quality of available fuels by amending the East African Standards (EAS 158: Automotive gasoline and EAS 177: Automotive diesel).  On 29th January 2019, the Petroleum Institute of East Africa and UN Environment convened a sub-regional consultative meeting in Nairobi, Kenya to review the new draft standards. The meeting was attended by participants drawn from diverse organizations including government, industry, civil society and academia based in the East African countries. 

The meeting was opened by the Principal Secretary, State Department of Petroleum, Kenya, Mr. Andrew Kamau. In his opening remarks, he emphasized the importance of the systematic review of the January 2015 low sulphur fuel standards based on 2018 fuel imports data across East Africa. Mr. Olagoke Aluko, the Chairman of the Petroleum Institute of East Africa, further underpinned the importance of standards in creating a sustainable competitive business setting that protects the consumer’s health, safety and environment. 

From the fuel import quality analysis presented by the Kenya Pipeline Company, fuel imported into the sub-region had an average sulphur content of 10 ppm over the last year. This better-quality fuel is available despite the current East African standards that allow a maximum of 50 ppm sulphur in diesel. Globally, refineries are now producing ultra-low sulphur fuels hence making cleaner fuels more available at no additional cost.  It also emerged that Uganda plans to produce ultra-low sulphur fuels in its new refinery. 

ecowas low sulphur

As a way forward, and after stakeholder deliberations, there was agreement that the draft standards be further revised to: 

  • limit sulphur levels in diesel to a maximum of 10 ppm;  
  • limit sulphur levels in petrol to a maximum of 50 ppm;  
  • defer the introduction of fuel additives such as oxygenates, MMT, MTBE and other elements to a later date, to give time for a discussion on the impacts of such additives to health and the environment. 

The above proposals were to be submitted to the regional standards committee for consideration. If adopted, the East Africa sub-region is set up to be the first sub-region in Africa to adopt ultra-low sulphur diesel, placing it at the same level as Europe.