Mumbai: The ministry of road transport and highways is seeking to allay the auto industry’s concerns regarding BS VI, or Bharat Stage VI, fuel quality standards proposed by the ministry in a draft notification.

“The whole idea behind putting up a draft notification is to invite suggestions and recommendations," said a ministry official on the condition of anonymity, in response to a submission by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam), voicing the industry’s concerns. “There is nothing to be worried about," he said.

Siam has criticized the BS VI fuel standards, terming them as “highly diluted", which will take India back by 16 years to the BS II level, PTI reported on 20 March. “We have sent a detailed submission to the ministry on the draft notification," said K.K. Gandhi, executive director (technical) at Siam, in an interview on 21 March.

In its response, Siam has expressed reservations regarding the critical fuel characteristics such as octane number and density prescribed for BS VI that are “inferior" to Euro VI norms. It also alleged the draft seeks to allow supply of “even further downgraded fuel in the North East region till 2023". This is contrary to the assurance of supplying BS VI fuel across India by 2020, it added.

Officials at the ministry of petroleum and natural gas were not available for a comment. Oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan said in January that state-run oil refiners will invest about 28,750 crore for switching over to BS VI auto fuels.

Even as auto makers are getting worried, the senior government official cited above said the ministry is committed to doing whatever is good for the industry. “There is no need to worry, we will do the needful", and help the industry in smooth transition to Bharat Stage VI, he said.

India will move up to the toughest emission standards of BS VI from the current BS IV by 2020, skipping an intermediate level, transport minister Nitin Gadkari said in January. The decision to leapfrog to stage VI was prompted by the poor air quality in the country and New Delhi, in particular.

The auto body also demanded “exactly the same BS VI fuel as per Euro VI fuel standards prevalent in Europe if it has to meet the BS VI norms for vehicles. Siam said in the proposed BS VI norms, Research Octane Number (RON) for regular petrol has been set at 91, while the same in Euro VI is 95. Likewise, the motor octane number (MON) for BS VI is 81, while in Euro VI it is 85. A lower octane number of fuel, said Gandhi, will adversely impact the fuel efficiency of vehicles and overall combustion.

An octane number is the ability of a fuel to resist knocking when ignited in a mixture with air in the cylinder of an internal combustion engine. Siam said for diesel, key parameters like the “95% recovery" and “density" have been compromised. This would directly impact emissions and lead to increase in particulate matter (PM), a known carcinogenic, and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) leading to secondary particulate matter and smog, PTI reported quoting Vishnu Mathur, director general, Siam. Mathur added that the higher limits for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon at 11 for BS VI compared to 8 for Euro VI diesel will lead to higher carcinogenicity potential.

Gandhi said irrespective of the fuel quality standards, auto firms will go ahead with the BS VI norms, but a sub-standard fuel quality will pose multiple challenges.

However, not everyone agrees. Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director at Delhi-based think tank Centre for Science and Environment, said, “One does not require high octane level fuel across all the models. It is mostly required in high performance vehicles." She added that auto firms can easily make do with lower octane fuel by deploying adequate emission control system.

To be sure, the ministry of road transport and highways is in no hurry to push through the draft notification. The official cited above said the government will factor in all the stakeholders’ concerns before deciding on the final policy.