Proposed Air Pollution Control (Petrol Filling Stations)(Vapour Recovery) Regulation
(ACE Paper 51/98)
This paper seeks Members' advice on the proposed Air Pollution Control (Petrol Filling Stations) (Vapour Recovery) Regulation (at Appendix) which aims to reduce benzene emissions from petrol filling stations during the petrol unloading process.
Benzene is a known human carcinogen. It enters the human body primarily through inhalation and can cause toxicological effects such as injury to bone marrow. A number of overseas cases of leukemia have been reported to be associated with benzene exposure.
In Hong Kong, petrol is the principal source of benzene in the ambient air. The average benzene contents for leaded and unleaded petrol in Hong Kong are 3.2% and 3.4% respectively. These levels comply with the maximum allowable level of 5% in Hong Kong which is as stringent as the standard of the European Union.
The Toxic Air Pollutants Inventory Study commissioned by the Environmental Protection Department identified benzene emissions from petrol filling stations to be a high priority issue requiring control as they are commonly found in the close proximity of residential areas in Hong Kong. This recommendation, together with other recommendations of the Study, was endorsed by Members at the ACE Meeting held in May 1996.
The proposed Regulation will bring Hong Kong in line with the practice of many other developed countries in controlling benzene emissions during petrol unloading at a petrol filling station. It will also reduce benzene emissions at the petrol filling stations due to petrol spillage, emptying loss and breathing loss from the storage tanks.
THE PROPOSED REGULATION
The proposed Regulation requires action from the owners and operators of petrol filling stations and petrol delivery vehicles to reduce benzene emissions during the unloading of petrol from the delivery vehicle to the petrol storage tank in the petrol filling station. Details of the requirements are given in paragraphs 7 to 9 below.
Installation of Vapour Recovery System
Section 3 of the proposed Regulation requires that every petrol delivery vehicle and storage tank of petrol filling stations served by these vehicles shall be equipped with a vapour recovery system capable of recovering at least 90% of the petrol vapour (and hence benzene) displaced from the tanks when petrol is unloaded. Many overseas countries have already required installation of similar vapour recovery systems and the technical specifications of the system are rather standardised. The vapour recovery system will also reduce benzene emissions due to emptying loss and breathing loss from the storage tanks.
Maintenance of Vapour Recovery System
In order to ensure the proper maintenance of the vapour recovery system after installation, section 4 of the proposed Regulation requires that every vapour recovery system installed shall be tested annually by a competent examiner who is a registered professional engineer of a relevant discipline. The examiner shall certify the system in accordance with a set of testing requirements specified in Schedules 1 to 3 of the proposed Regulation. The certificate, with an effective period of 12 months from the testing date, has to be submitted to the Environmental Protection Department for registration. The certificate shall also be displayed at a conspicuous location on the vehicle or in the station.
Section 7 of the proposed Regulation requires that the vapour recovery systems have to be properly operated during the petrol unloading process. When the vapour recovery systems of the vehicle and the storage tank are not completely interconnected or leakage of petrol is observed, the operator should immediately stop the unloading process until the problem is rectified. This requirement will also reduce benzene emissions due to petrol spillage.
Fines and imprisonment terms are proposed to provide sufficient deterrent effect. The maximum fines shall be $200,000, with an imprisonment term of 6 months, for the owner of the petrol filling station or the petrol delivery vehicle who fails to install the vapour recovery system or to conduct annual test on the system. The same maximum penalty shall also apply to the owner of a petrol filling station who allows any unloading of petrol from a petrol delivery vehicle without the certificate. An owner of the petrol filling station or the petrol delivery vehicle who fails to display the certificate will be subject to a maximum fine at level 5 (currently $50,000). An operator who fails to operate the petrol unloading process properly shall be liable to a maximum fine at level 5 on the first conviction and a maximum fine at level 5, with an imprisonment term of 3 months, for the second or subsequent conviction.
Major oil companies, private petrol filling stations and environmental groups have been consulted. They were generally in support of the need for the control. Some oil companies have already modified their existing stations and petrol delivery vehicles for early compliance with the proposed requirements.
Subject to approval by the Legislative Council, the proposed Regulation is intended to take effect on 1 April 1999. All existing petrol filling stations and petrol delivery vehicles will be given a grace period of 12 months to install and upgrade their facilities in compliance with the requirements. We estimate that there are about 300 petrol filling stations and 70 petrol delivery vehicles in Hong Kong which would need to be brought into compliance with the proposed Regulation.
Members are requested to comment on the proposed Air Pollution Control (Petrol Filling Stations) (Vapour Recovery) Regulation.
Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau