Energy

EXCLUSIVE Mexico postpones low sulfur diesel rule until 2025, ministry says

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A diesel and fuel pump machine are seen at a gas station, in Mexico City, Mexico January 15, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Romero

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MEXICO CITY, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Mexico on Friday delayed for three years a rule mandating that new trucks and buses use low-sulfur diesel, arguing the fuel is not currently available everywhere in the country, according to an environment ministry official and a document seen by Reuters.

COMARNAT, a government body that helps design and enforce environmental norms, agreed that until the end of 2024, motors that use conventional diesel can keep being used in Mexico, alongside motors built with new technologies.

The delay to the rules was approved at a meeting on Friday, a deputy environment minister, Tonatiuh Herrera, told Reuters.

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"The change to a more advanced technological standard for heavy vehicles will depend on the availability of ultra-low-sulfur diesel," in Mexico, Herrera said.

He added that the new agreement would be subject to an annual review, which could lead to modifications if more fuel becomes available in the future.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's government is under pressure from environmentalists for its strong support for fossil fuels that affect both air quality and greenhouse gas emissions.

Plans to mandate ultra-low-sulfur diesel were designed to reduce pollution from transporting everything from school children to cement and especially the massive volume of U.S. imports that cross Mexico's northern border.

Compared with conventional diesel, low-sulfur diesel can reduce harmful air contaminants like nitrogen oxide and tiny particulate matter by upwards of 90%, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Unless there is a further delay, from 2025 new trucks and buses imported to Mexico or manufactured in the country must be equipped to use diesel containing no more than 15 parts per million (PPM) of sulfur. Current rules allow fuel containing up to 500 PPM sulfur.

In September 2020, Mexico had postponed the rule until December this year, citing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The agreement on Friday states that "insufficient availability" was behind the new postponement, citing an earlier decision by the Energy Regulatory Commission giving state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos until December 2024 to fully supply the country with cleaner diesel.

"It will be available starting Jan. 1 of 2025," the document says.

Mexico imports a large portion of the clean diesel it sells in service stations across the country.

KEEP ON TRUCKING

In June, associations including truck manufacturers and operators pointed to an industry study showing shrinking ultra-low-sulfur diesel availability at gasoline stations in Mexico.

At the time, the trucking lobby asked for a delay, arguing that implementation would actually cause more reliance on older, heavily polluting trucks.

In its decision, the environment ministry considered the lobby's argument that uncertainty over availability of the cleaner fuel would stall the purchase of newer vehicles that sharply cut tailpipe emissions despite using conventional diesel. read more

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Reporting by Sharay Angulo; Writing by Anthony Esposito and Jake Kincaid; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Grant McCool

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