Introducing Low-Sulphur Fuel in East Africa

The CCAC has played an important role in moving East Africa toward cleaner diesel fuel that is lower in sulphur and closer to world standard.

Until recently, the diesel sulphur levels in this region ranged between 5,000 parts per million (ppm) and 10,000 ppm. Compare this to US and Europe standards of 10-15 ppm. In the past, the region relied on fuel supplies from a refinery in Kenya as well as from direct imports. The Kenyan refinery was commissioned in the early 1960s and had never been modernized, leading to production inefficiencies. This led to the Kenyan refinery supplying only about 50% of Kenya’s fuel needs and the region increasingly relying on import of finished products.

The region then had an opportunity to move quickly to cleaner, low sulphur diesel, at least for imported products. In 2011, through UNEP support, the region lowered the amount of sulphur allowed in diesel fuel from 5,000 ppm to 500 ppm. However, Kenya continued to market two grades of fuel, imported fuel at 500 ppm and the refinery output at an average of 7,500 ppm. Talks of refinery modernization gained urgency.

In March 2013, the CCAC, through its “Reducing Black Carbon Emissions from Heavy Duty Diesel Vehicles and Engines” initiative, approved USD275,000 to support the region in further lowering diesel sulphur levels to 50 ppm. This low sulphur fuel is needed for the buses being procured to operate along the new Bus Rapid Transit system in Dar es Salaam as well as to support the efficient functioning of cleaner vehicle technologies in the region. Similar bus systems are proposed in Nairobi, Kenya and Kampala, Uganda.

In June 2013, a Ministerial decision to adopt low sulphur harmonized standards was approved. In September, the Kenyan refinery was closed. In November, a sub-regional workshop (see to discuss the legislation of the harmonized standards and follow-up action in each of the five East African countries was held. In December, these regionally harmonized standards were enacted, and the first national workshop to discuss their implementation was held in Uganda. Other national activities on the operationalization of these standards at country level are planned in March-June 2014. The 50 parts per million sulphur fuels standards will become effective by 1 January 2015.

The CCAC is now visiting each East African country to help them to adopt legislation and develop their national standards. When the process is completed, the East Africa region will be the first region outside Europe to move as a block to low sulphur fuel standards.