Guidance document on Benzene in Gasoline Regulations: chapter 2

Questions and Answers on the Federal Benzene in Gasoline Regulations

General Questions

G.1 Why is benzene in gasoline being regulated?

Benzene is a known human carcinogen. It is a non-threshold toxicant -- a substance for which there is considered to be some probability of harm at any level of exposure.

In January 1994, the joint Environment Canada-Health Canada Priority Substance Assessment determined that benzene is in the environment in a concentration that constitutes or may constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health. Consequently, benzene was determined to be "toxic" as defined by the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

Benzene occurs naturally in crude oil and so is found in gasoline. Unlike lead, for example, benzene is generally not added to gasoline. In 1995, approximately 56% of the Canadian emissions of benzene were from the combustion of gasoline in the engines of vehicles. In urban areas, this source was responsible for over 80% of the emissions of benzene. Emissions of benzene from vehicles are from benzene in the gasoline that survives combustion and from aromatics that are converted to benzene during the combustion process.

Benzene in gasoline is currently regulated in many areas of the United States and will soon be regulated throughout Europe. In July 1995, the federal Minister of the Environment announced regulations on benzene in gasoline. In October 1995, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment endorsed the regulation of benzene in gasoline and tailpipe emission performance of benzene.

G.2 Why are the regulations so complicated?

The complications arise largely from allowing the use of annual pool averages (which is a compliance option) and the use of an emissions modelling approach (instead of, say, a limit on aromatics). These features were incorporated in the regulations at the behest of the petroleum industry in order to provide flexibility in how environmental performance is achieved. Any person who does not opt to use an annual pool average is not subject to Part 2 of the regulations.

The use of annual averages requires additional enforcement provisions, such as compliance plans, independent audits, additional records, sample retention, and never-to-be-exceeded caps.

As well, the use of annual pool averages necessitates that the primary points of compliance be the refinery gate, point of importation and the blending facility. This focus on upstream compliance points requires defining what qualifies as a "pool" for averaging purposes. This is further complicated by the need to address downstream blending issues.

The use of an emissions modelling approach further complicates the regulations in that it necessitates that a number of gasoline properties be measured, and that the equations for benzene emissions from the U.S. Complex Model be provided in the regulations.

G.3 To whom do the regulations apply?

No person may sell or offer for sale gasoline with a benzene content of greater than 1.5% by volume.

The persons most affected by the regulations are those who produce (including by blending) or import gasoline. The term "primary supplier" has been adopted to cover:

  • A manufacturer (producer or refiner) is any person who owns, leases, operates, controls, supervises or manages a refinery.
  • A blender is any person who owns, leases, operates, controls, supervises or manages a blending facility (including mobile blending facilities -- cargo tankers, etc.) or owns the gasoline in a blending facility. Certain blending operations are excluded from the regulations (see below).
  • An importer is any person who imports gasoline into Canada, and is usually thought of as the importer of record. Gasoline in the fuel tank of a vehicle for use of that vehicle is not considered by the regulations to be imported.

G.4 What types of blending operations are not covered by the regulations?

Any person only mixing together low-sulphur gasolines or California Phase 2 gasoline, or both is not considered, for the purposes of the regulations, to be "blending" gasoline. Therefore, these types of blending operations are not subject to the regulations.

Any person only adding additives to complying gasoline is not considered, for the purposes of the regulations to be "blending" gasoline. Additives are substances that "improve" the characteristics of the gasoline, but do not materially affect its composition. Therefore, this type of blending operation is not subject to the regulations.

Any person only blending a commercially pure oxygenate or commercially pure butane with complying gasoline is not considered, for the purposes of the regulations, to be "blending" gasoline. Therefore, this type of blending operation is not subject to the regulations.

G.5 If I only buy gasoline, but do not refine, blend or import myself, what requirements must I meet?

If you only buy complying gasoline from others (e.g., a wholesaler), then you are not a primary supplier, and therefore you do not have to meet any of the requirements placed upon a primary supplier.

You would, however, be subject to the following requirements:

  • you cannot sell gasoline with a benzene level in excess of 1.5% by volume (subsection 3(2)); and
  • upon request by Environment Canada, you must provide Environment Canada with gasoline samples and information on the names and addresses of the persons that sold or provided the gasoline to you and the data of the transfer (section 11).

If you buy gasoline-like blendstock, there are requirements that you must fulfill (refer to questions on section 13).

G.6 What parameters of gasoline are controlled?

Two parameters of gasoline are controlled by the regulations: (1) the benzene concentration in gasoline, and (2) the benzene emissions number of gasoline. The benzene emissions number, or BEN, is a calculated parameter that relates gasoline quality to the emissions of benzene from a typical automobile.

The BEN is computed by determining seven characteristics of gasoline (called "model parameters" in the regulations) and using a formula, or model, to calculate the benzene emissions number. The model parameters are the concentration of oxygen, sulphur, benzene and aromatics, the type of oxygenate, the vapour pressure, and two distillation fractions. The formula, or model, is based on the Phase 2 equations for exhaust and non-exhaust emissions of benzene from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Complex Model for use in the northern half of the U.S. (i.e., Area C).

G.7 What options do I have in meeting the requirements?

All primary suppliers, regardless of size or nature of operations, have the options of electing to meet a per-litre limit or a yearly pool average limit for each of their facilities and import pools. The options may be elected separately for benzene and the BEN. Yearly pool averages provide more flexibility to the primary supplier, but have considerably more administrative requirements (discussed in Part 2 of this document). Elections must be made or changed by May 2 for the year 1999 or by November 2 for any subsequent year. An election cannot be changed part way through a year (refer to the first item in Part 2 for further details).

Primary suppliers who elect to meet yearly pool average limits for the BEN have the additional option of applying to use their own historical (1994, 1995 or 1996) BEN level as their limit.

G.8 How do these regulations relate to the federal Gasoline Regulations?

The federal Gasoline Regulations control lead and phosphorous in gasoline. Those regulations are separate from the Benzene in Gasoline Regulations, which control benzene in gasoline and the benzene emissions number of gasoline. Both regulations must be complied with.

G.9 How do these regulations relate to the federal Fuels Information Regulations?

The federal Fuels Information Regulations, No. 1 require that refiners and importers report annually the levels of sulphur in all liquid fuels, including gasoline, during each quarter of the year. They also require one-time notification of any changes in the use of additives in liquid fuels. Those regulations are separate from the Benzene in Gasoline Regulations. Both regulations must be complied with.

G.10 How do these regulations relate to provincial gasoline regulations?

At present British Columbia, under its Cleaner Gasoline Regulation, is the only province to control benzene in gasoline. B.C.'s regulation controls other characteristics of gasoline as well as benzene. The federal and B.C. regulations have the same average for benzene; the federal regulations have a never-to-be-exceeded cap whereas B.C.'s regulation does not. Within B.C., both provincial and federal regulations must be complied with.

G.11 What are the important dates in the regulations?

Primary suppliers must meet the requirements for benzene and the BEN by July 1, 1999. Sellers of gasoline have until October 1, 1999 to meet the never-to-be-exceeded cap for benzene (there are no downstream requirements for the BEN). The three-month difference is to allow gasoline produced or imported just prior to January 1, 1999 to move through the gasoline distribution system. (Note that sellers of gasoline in remote northern areas of Canada have until July 1, 2000 to comply with the cap for benzene.)

There are other dates in the regulations, mostly for administrative purposes. A list of all important dates in the regulations is presented below:

Important Dates in the Benzene in gasoline regulations

November 1, 1998

Existing refiners, importers and blenders must be registered with Environment Canada (or 15 days prior to commencing operations for new refiners, importers or blenders).

November 2, 1998

Application for alternative sampling or analysis methods (or 60 days prior to use).

December 1, 1998

Submission of data supporting an application for an alternative limit for the BEN for those intending to use an alternative limit.

January 1, 1999

Requirements for reporting composition come into force..

February 1, 1999

Submission of compliance plans (or by August 4 of any subsequent year for a new election) for companies intending to elect for yearly pool average limits.

May 2, 1999

Election for yearly pool average limits (by November 2 of any subsequent year for a change of status).

May 15, 1999

First quarterly report on gasoline composition is due. Subsequent reports are due February 14, May 15, August 14 and November 14 of each year until February 14, 2003 (thereafter annually by February 15).

July 1, 1999

  1. Requirements for benzene and the BEN come into force for refiners, importers and blenders.
  2. General reporting, samplinolg, analysis, record keeping and auditing requirements come into force.

October 1, 1999

The never-to-be-exceeded cap for benzene of 1.5% by volume comes into force for anyone selling of gasoline (July 1, 2000 in remote northern areas).

May 31, 2000

First report by the auditor is due for those on a yearly pool average (thereafter annually by May 31).

January 1, 2002

A statistical quality assurance program can be used under certain circumstances, if an application is made at least 60 days prior to its use.

February 14, 2003

Last quarterly report on gasoline composition.

February 15, 2004

First annual report on gasoline composition (subsequent annual reports are due by February 15 of each year).

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