Due to a shortage in supply of a new eco-friendly fuel, drivers in Vietnam are finding it hard to follow a new rule requiring them to refill their cars with petrol that meets the Euro 4 exhaust emission standard.
While most cars in Vietnam are running on Euro 2 standard fuel, a new law effective January 1 mandates that all new automobiles in Vietnam, both imported and domestically assembled, must use petrol meeting the Euro 4 standard.
Another mandatory upgrade, from Euro 2 to Euro 3, was also approved for motorbikes with the same deadline.
Currently applied in several countries, the Euro emission standards, set by the European Union, stipulate average emission targets for toxic substances like carbon monoxide (CO) or carbon dioxide (CO2).
The Euro 2, introduced in 1997, set the CO emission target at 4g/kWh, and the later Euro 4, effective in 2011, lowered that to 1.5g/kWh.
A petrol product must have a lead content of no more than 0.005 grams per liter to meet the Euro 4 standard, compared to 0.013 g/l of the Euro 2.
Drivers told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that while they want to follow the law, it is not easy to find Euro 4 petrol, even in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Duc Thuan, one Hanoi resident, has recently purchased a new car using the Euro 4 standard. However, “it is a tough job finding a filling station with the Euro 4 petrol,” he told Tuoi Tre.
Petrolimex, Vietnam’s largest fuel wholesaler, is the only supplier of the higher grade petrol, but not all Petrolimex stations have this kind of fuel, Thuan added.
“So I sometimes have to resort to using Euro 2 petrol,” he said.
Similarly, Mai Anh, a Ho Chi Minh City commuter with an imported sedan featuring a Euro 4 engine, said that finding a filling station with the correct petrol remains a real challenge.
Refinery to blame
In February, Vietnam’s Ministry of Transport called on the government to postpone the mandatory European emission standard upgrade, citing unpreparedness, even though it had been given a five-year window to be ready.
The transport ministry said there would be an insufficient domestic supply of petrol meeting the new standard, adding that the country’s sole operational oil refinery had also failed to produce such products.
According to the transport ministry, the Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers' Association cited the lack of proper fuel to call for a delay to the Euro 4 upgrade, saying “car engines will break down easier without suitable fuel.”
However, despite this and experts' claims that the mandatory upgrade would not achieve their goals, the government has rejected pleas to delay and insisted that the new law come into effect as scheduled.
Only applicable to new vehicles, not all owners of Euro 4 cars are willing to use the recommended gasoline for their vehicles, especially when there is effectively no mechanism to check which kind of petrol a car is using.
This significant loophole means that drivers will continue to use Euro 2 fuel in their vehicles, especially given that the Euro 4 product is always more expensive.
According to Petrolimex, Euro 4 petrol costs two to five percent more than its Euro 2 and 3 predecessors, respectively.
Dung Quat Refinery, Vietnam’s only operational oil refinery that currently meets around 30 percent of domestic fuel demand, is unable to churn out such standardized petrol products, its operator BSR has admitted.
“Our facility was designed in 1999 and commissioned in 2009, while the Euro 4 was introduced in 2011,” BSR chairman Nguyen Hoang Giang told Tuoi Tre in a February interview.
The refinery needs to be expanded and upgraded to be able to produce the Euro 4-level fuel, Giang said.
“The upgrade and expansion may only be completed by 2022 or 2023, after which we will be able to produce fuel products that meet up to Euro 5 standards,” Giang claimed, adding that the facility’s products now satisfy the Euro 3 standard only.