Will introduction of BS VI fuel help reduce pollution?

With BS VI fuel to be available in Delhi from 1 April and the country from 2020, Mint analyses whether a cleaner fuel will result in a cleaner India

Gireesh Chandra Prasad
Updated29 Mar 2018
Delhi has the worst air pollution in the world. Photo: HT
Delhi has the worst air pollution in the world. Photo: HT

Why the Bharat Stage (BS) fuel norms?

India is the third largest consumer of oil after China and the US. India’s oil consumption is growing at a steady 4-5% a year despite a surge in renewable sources of energy warranted by more stringent air quality norms to address the effects of pollution. The vehicular pollution norms introduced in the early 1990s have been tightened over time, with BS VI scheduled to be implemented in Delhi from 1 April. According to the plan, Delhi NCR will have BS VI fuel supplies from April 2019 and the rest of the country from April 2020. The deadline was advanced for Delhi on account of the high level of pollution in the capital.

How serious is India’s pollution problem?

According to a January 2018 survey by Greenpeace Environment Trust that covered 630 million Indians, 550 million live in areas where particulate matter exceeds the national standard, and many live in areas where air pollution levels are more than twice the stipulated standard. Air quality is measured based on the number of small particles in every cubic metre of air capable of entering the bloodstream through the lungs.

What is BS VI’s key improvement in fuel quality over BS IV?

BS VI norms seek to cut down sulphur content to 10 parts per million (ppm) from 50 ppm. Sulphur in the fuel contributes to fine particulate matter emissions. High sulphur content in the fuel also leads to corrosion and wear of the automobile engine. BS VI norms also seek to reduce the level of certain harmful hydrocarbons in the emissions that are produced due to incomplete combustion of fuel.

How prepared are fuel retailers?

Retailers usually start supplying fuel of superior quality specifications weeks ahead of the deadline to flush out the fuel already flowing through the pipelines. Replenishing the supply chain with the specified quality fuel is a gradual process as new supplies get mixed with the old stock. State-owned refineries in Mathura and Panipat are already producing BS VI fuel. The shift from BS IV to BS VI, skipping a stage, is estimated to cost refiners Rs28,000 crore.

Are automobile companies ready?

Industry watchers say some automobile manufacturers are already exporting Euro VI-compliant vehicles and that they are ready to sell these in the domestic market. However, it is unlikely that any automaker will launch a BS VI-compliant vehicle before the April 2020 deadline for the national rollout, due to fears that their higher price could result in a loss of market share to a rival who prefers to wait. Industry observers add that automakers would prefer to switch to BS VI-compliant vehicles in all cities at the same time as otherwise people would tend to buy cheaper older versions from neighbouring states. To be sure, pre-BS VI vehicles will continue to be in use even after BS VI fuel and compliant vehicles become the standard. gireesh chandra prasad

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