Revised Sulfur Limits for Commercial Fuel Oil

Revised Sulfur Limits for Commercial Fuel Oil

May 27, 2016
On July 1, 2016, revised sulfur limits for commercial fuel oils used by combustion units will go into effect statewide replacing existing area-specific sulfur content limits.  Any small business retailers or distributors of commercial fuel oil should take note. The revised limits were incorporated in Pennsylvania’s State Implementation Plan (SIP) and approved by the US EPA on July 10, 2014. 

What is the Maximum Allowable Sulfur Content for Commercial Fuels?

Starting July 1, 2016, any business owner or operator of an affected distributor or retail outlet that produces, conveys or stores commercial fuel oil may not sell, deliver, trade, or allow the use of fuel oil that contains sulfur in excess of the following limits by weight:

  • No. 2 and lighter distillate oil                             500 ppm or 0.05%
  • No. 4 oil                                                          2,500 ppm or 0.25% 
  • No. 5, No. 6 and heavier oil                            5,000 ppm or 0.5%

What is a Combusion Unit?

The state of Pennsylvania defines a combustion unit as any stationary equipment used to burn fuel primarily for the purpose of producing power or heat by indirect heat transfer. 

Typical combustion units owned and operated by small businesses will likely be commercial boiler and furnace units. Other combustion equipment may include diesel-fired engines used to supply power to a small business operation.

What do Small Businesses Need to Know?

Small businesses most likely to be affected by the lower sulfur limits will be distributors or retail outlets of commercial fuel oil.  In the final rulemaking, it was estimated that were 737 distributors of petroleum products in Pennsylvania; however, not all of these operations may handle commercial fuel oil. 

Proper records should be kept that demonstrate the volume of commercial fuel oil being sold or transferred, the sulfur content of the fuel, the date of sale, and the name and address of the businesses involved in the transfer of fuel.  While private residences are specifically exempt from recordkeeping, small businesses that use commercial fuel oil in their combustion units should maintain records demonstrating the fuel oil is in compliance with the sulfur content limit.

Temporary Suspension of Enforcement

While the new limits are effective on July 1, 2016, Pennsylvania DEP has decided to temporarily suspend enforcement of the new limits for No. 2 and lighter commercial fuel oil for certain distributors and retail outlets until after the end of the 2016 calendar year.  Reasons for the temporary suspension are due to an overly warm winter causing a surplus of existing fuel on the market. 

During the suspension period, the transfer and use of No. 2 fuel oil by distributors or retailers is allowed as long as the sulfur content does not exceed the limit of 5,000 ppm or 0.5% sulfur by weight.  This temporary suspension will not apply to any fuel oil received by any distributor or retail outlet after May 14, 2016.