Originally created 08/12/01

Cuts in speciality gas formulas cheered



Oil refiners like the possibility that the Environmental Protection Agency might cut the number of U.S. gasoline formulas used to lower air pollution, but environmentalists want to see details.

EPA chief Christine Whitman has said the agency is considering cutting the number of specialty formulas from the dozen or so now in use to three or four.

"Some refiners have to meet several different local formulas," said John Bennitt, a Conoco spokesman in Denver. "For them, it would be very nice if they only have to make one or two blends instead of several."

Refiners produce specialized blends for Colorado, Bennitt said, but they aren't really the "boutique" blends used in places such as Los Angeles and Chicago to reduce air pollution.

Bennitt said cutting down on specialized blends would reduce costs for those refiners because they have to change their operations to make different blends for different states. Plus storing and shipping the blends for the time of year they're needed adds costs for oil companies.

Jeff Mauer, who covers oil and refined products for Platts Global Energy, agreed it would be easier for refiners to have fewer regional standards.

"If one region is stuck with a standard and you can't move gasoline from New York to Chicago, it definitely constrains supply," he said.

But environmentalists want to know details about Whitman's plan, such as which blends would be eliminated.

"Improving the system of boutique blends is fine as long as it does not result in any reduction in air quality," said Steve Smith, regional representative for the Sierra Club.