Revised Sulfur Limits for Commercial Fuel Oil

Revised Sulfur Limits for Commercial Fuel Oil

Jul 29, 2020

On July 25, 2020, the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board (EQB) final-form rulemaking notice was published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin for the revision of the maximum allowable sulfur content limit for No. 2 and lighter commercial fuel oil from the current limit of 500 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur to 15 ppm.  No. 2 and lighter commercial fuel oil are generally sold for and used in residential and commercial furnaces, oil heat burners for home or space heating, and/or water heating.

The compliance dates for this final-form rulemaking will go into effect on September 1, 2020.  The rulemaking applies to the owner and operator of a refinery, pipeline, terminal, distributor, carrier or retail outlet fuel storage facility that produces, conveys, stores or sells No. 2 and lighter commercial fuel oil.

What is the Maximum Allowable Sulfur Content for Commercial Fuels?

Starting September 1, 2020, 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                             15 ppm (0.0015%)
  • No. 4 oil                                                          2,500 ppm (0.25% )
  • No. 5, No. 6 and heavier oil                            5,000 ppm (0.5%)

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 such as suppliers and operators who are essentially selling these fuel types to the ultimate consumer or end user. 

Proper records should be kept in paper or electronic format for affected entities of this rulemaking for a length of two (2) years.  The records should 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 September 1, 2020, 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 February 28, 2021.  Reasons for the temporary suspension are due to an overly warm winter of 2019-2020 causing a surplus of existing fuel on the market and inventories. 

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 500 ppm or 0.05% sulfur by weight.  A distributor or retailer covered by the limited suspension of enforcement must maintain adequate records onsite to document the quantity of No. 2 and lighter commercial fuel oil stored onsite on July 25, 2020 that exceeds the 15 ppm sulfur content

Small Business Assistance

Any small businesses located in Pennsylvania with questions about this rulemaking or the temporary suspension of enforcement can speak with an EMAP environmental consultant.  All EMAP services are confidential and are provided at no-cost. 

Pennsylvania small businesses that require environmental assistance can reach EMAP by emailing or by contacting the toll-free environmental hotline at (877) ASK-EMAP.