Oil refining giant BP Amoco is expected to announce Monday (March 6) that it is bringing its new low-sulfur gasoline formula to metro Detroit. The new gasoline, to be marketed as Crystal Clear Amoco Ultimate and BP Super 93, contains 30 parts per million (ppm) sulfur, about one-tenth the 300-plus ppm sulfur in typical unleaded gasoline.

BP Amoco says the new low-sulfur gasoline will be offered at no additional cost over the company's current premium unleaded.

Partnering with BP Amoco is Ford Motor Co., which is taking the unusual commitment of specifying the new low-sulfur gasoline as the official “factory fill” for premium-fueled vehicles built in Ford factories in markets offering the new low-sulfur fuel. Those markets now include just Atlanta and Chicago.

Reducing gasoline sulfur levels has emerged as an automotive industry rallying call: sulfur “poisons” the reactive materials in automotive catalytic converters, over time reducing their efficiency. With tighter federal emissions standards looming in 2004 — and several states threatening to adopt California-type emissions standards that are tighter still — the effectiveness of catalysts is a matter of vital importance.

As part of the upcoming federal Tier 2 emissions standards, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandated that gasoline sulfur levels be reduced to 30 ppm, with a phase-in period beginning in 2004 (see Ward's Automotive Reports — May 10, '99, p.1). Automakers had lobbied for an even-cleaner 5 ppm, but oil interests resisted the drastic reduction, saying that updating refineries to produce low-sulfur gasoline at 30 ppm already will cost the oil industry billions. BP Amoco says it will spend in excess of $100 million over the next two years to modify its refineries to make low-sulfur fuel in cities “that are most troubled by smog and pollution.”