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Climate Action

Fuel Quality

Fuels used for road transport in the EU have to meet strict quality requirements to protect human health and the environment and make sure that vehicles can safely travel from one country to another.

Common fuel quality rules help

  • reduce greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions
  • establish a single fuel market and ensure that vehicles can operate everywhere in the EU on the basis of compatible fuels.

The Fuel Quality Directive applies to

  • petrol, diesel and biofuels used in road transport
  • gasoil used in non-road-mobile machinery.

The Fuel Quality Directive requires a reduction of the greenhouse gas intensity of transport fuels by a minimum of 6% by 2020. Member States are obliged to ensure that suppliers respect the target of 6% after the year 2020. The monitoring and reporting obligations relating to greenhouse gas emissions intensity also remain applicable after that date. Together with the Renewable Energy Directive, it also regulates the sustainability of biofuels.

Emissions reporting covers full life-cycle

The greenhouse gas intensity of fuels is calculated on a life-cycle basis, covering emissions from extraction, processing and distribution. Emissions reductions are calculated against a 2010 baseline of 94.1 gCO2eq/MJ.

The 6% reduction target is likely to be achieved primarily through:

  • the use of biofuels, electricity, less carbon intense fossil fuels, and renewable fuels of non-biological origin (such as e-fuels)
  • a reduction of upstream emissions (such as flaring and venting) at the extraction stage of fossil feedstocks.

Council Directive (EU) 2015/652 defines the method to calculate, and the details to report, the greenhouse gas intensity of regulated fuels. Member States shall apply these rules as of 21 April 2017.

Fuel quality monitoring reports

Biofuel sustainability

For biofuels to count towards the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, they must meet certain sustainability criteria to minimise negative impacts in their production phase.

Until 31 December 2020, the Fuel Quality Directive and the Renewable Energy Directive set out the following requirements:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels must be lower than from the fossil fuel they replace – at least 50% (for installations in operation before 5 October 2015) and 60% for installations starting operation after that date.
  • The feedstocks for biofuels cannot be sourced from land with high biodiversity or high carbon stock.

Taking account of indirect land use change

Rising demand for biofuels can displace the production of food and feed crops, and induce the conversion of land, such as forests and wetlands, into agricultural land, thus indirectly leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions.

These emissions from indirect land use change (ILUC) can significantly reduce or even wipe out the greenhouse gas savings from biofuels.

To account for this, the amount of biofuels produced from cereal and other starch-rich crops, sugars and oil crops and from energy crops grown on agricultural land that can be counted as a sustainable source of renewable energy is limited to 7% of the energy in transport in the Member States in 2020.

Reducing air pollution

The legislation also governs other elements of fuel quality, primarily linked to air pollutant emissions.

Thanks to the mandatory reduction of the sulphur content under the Fuel Quality Directive, by 2009 the average sulphur content of petrol and diesel was below 10 ppm.


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