(EnergyAsia, August 27 2012, Monday) — Singapore’s oil refiners, power plant operators, chemical producers and automobile importers will be among the companies most affected by the National Environment Agency’s (NEA) plan to raise emissions standards and improve air quality by 2020.

According to environment minister Vivian Balakrishnan, the agency will be implementing measures to meet World Health Organisation (WHO) air quality standards for particulate matter 10 (PM10), nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone and sulphur dioxide.

The NEA will also increase the reporting frequency of the nation’s pollutant standards index (PSI) which measures PM10, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide in the ambient air from once a day to three times. For the first time, the daily reports will also include PM2.5, a fine pollutant responsible for causing a range of respiratory and heart illnesses.

Some key measures are being progressively enforced, starting with higher emission standards for off-road diesel engines from July 1 2012, to be followed by Euro V emission standards for new diesel vehicles by January 1 2014, and Euro IV emission standards for new petrol vehicles by April 1 2014.

From July 2013, transportation diesel must contain less than 0.001% sulphur while motor vehicles will only be allowed to use gasoline with sulphur content less than 0.005% by October 1 2013.

By January 1 2014, Singapore will require new diesel vehicles to meet Euro V emissions standards, while new gasoline vehicles will have to comply with Euro IV emission standards three months later.

The NEA said oil refineries and power stations will reduce sulphur dioxide output through use of natural gas and lower-sulphur fuels, while refiners have pledged to improve their processes to reduce emissions by 2020.

“These targets will enable Singapore to achieve a high standard of public health and economic competitiveness,” said Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR).

Once regarded as among the world’s best, Singapore’s air quality has deteriorated over the past decade to the point that it has fallen below WHO standards.

“Like many other major cities, air emissions from the industries and motor vehicles are the two key sources of air pollution domestically. Transboundary smoke haze from the land and forest fires in the region is also a problem which affects Singapore’s air quality intermittently during the South West Monsoon period from August to October,” said the NEA.

“Integrated urban and industrial planning, as well as development control have enabled the government to put in place preventive air pollution control measures during the planning stage. In addition, legislation, strict enforcement programme and air quality monitoring have helped to ensure that air quality remains good despite our dense urban development and large industrial base.”

In 2009, the government launched the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint (SSB) to target its sulphur dioxide (CO2) content at an annual mean of 15 micrograms (one-millionth of a gram) per cubic meter air (µg/m3), and 12µg/m3 of PM2.5 by 2020.

The new air quality targets which are pegged to WHO standards will be aligned with the SSB targets. Singapore will adopt the final WHO standards for PM2.5 and sulphur dioxide at its long-term targets.