Chevron Corp. jumped on the clean-air bandwagon Tuesday by unveiling a lower-emissions premium gasoline to be marketed in four Southern California cities, joining seven other oil companies that have introduced such gasolines around the nation in the past year.
Chevron becomes the third major oil company to sell a lower-emissions gasoline in California and the second to sell a reformulated premium fuel.
It began selling its new Chevron Supreme Unleaded gasoline Tuesday at its stations in Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Diego. Later this summer, Chevron will expand sales to Baltimore, Washington and Houston--cities identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as among the nation’s smoggiest.
The new gasoline would reduce hydrocarbon emissions by 8.6% and carbon monoxide emissions by 7% per vehicle, the company said. If every car that now uses Chevron’s ordinary premium unleaded gasoline in the Los Angeles metropolitan area were to switch to the new fuel, about 14.6 tons of pollutants per day would vanish from area skies, the company said.
“There’s a consensus here certainly that we need to improve air quality,” said Will Price, president of Chevron U.S.A., in an interview Tuesday.
Chevron also announced plans to market a reformulated diesel fuel at 70 stations in a five-county area of Southern California. The announcement said it is the first such fuel to be introduced in the Los Angeles Basin.
Air quality officials generally approved of Chevron’s move, though they cautioned that it was only a modest first step. The potential reductions would barely dent the daily total of 6,300 tons of pollutants emitted by vehicles alone in the South Coast Air Basin, according to the California Air Resources Board.
“Like many other oil companies in recent months, they’ve taken a step in the right direction, but they haven’t gone as far as we expect our rules will go with regard to changes in the makeup of gasoline,” said Bill Sessa, a spokesman for the board.
The new gasoline will cost Chevron about 2 cents a gallon more to make at its El Segundo refinery but will be priced comparably with its ordinary premium, at least for now, Price said.
Last September, Arco, the state’s No. 1 gasoline seller, introduced EC-1, the first commercial lower-emissions gasoline, which is aimed at older cars and trucks in Southern California. In April, Shell Oil Co. introduced SU 2000E, a premium unleaded grade that can be used in any vehicle.
As does Shell’s gasoline, Chevron’s new fuel differs in only two respects from ordinary gasolines: It has a lower vapor pressure, or tendency to evaporate, and has added oxygen in the form of methyl tertiary butyl ether. Both changes cut emissions of hydrocarbons, a precursor to the ozone that makes up smog. MTBE also slightly increases the emission of nitrogen oxides, another ozone precursor.
Chevron’s new gasoline would fall far short of requirements contemplated by both the air resources board and by Congress, which is hammering out revisions to the federal Clean Air Act.
Arco went a couple of steps further with its EC-1 by also reducing smog-producing chemicals called aromatics and by cutting benzene, a toxic and carcinogenic chemical.