The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently approved request for an emergency fuel waiver for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler approved the waiver on Thursday May 30, 2019, one day after receiving the request. The emergency fuel waiver was submitted after damage to the Buckeye Laurel Pipeline created a supply shortage of 7.8 psi Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) in Allegheny County. Low RVP gasoline in Western Pennsylvania is typically supplied from refineries on the East Coast and the Laurel Pipeline disruption has effectively cutoff the supply.
It is once again that time of year where the sun is shining, temperatures are rising and so is the price of our fuel. Gasoline prices traditionally rise around early part of the year (February – May) but this year the increase was steeper than it traditionally is. Many refinery outages and early transition to summer blends have led the charge in California but, here are some other factors attributing to these increases:
According to the EPA, RVP is an abbreviation for Reid Vapor Pressure, a common measure of and generic term for gasoline volatility. EPA regulates the vapor pressure of gasoline sold at retail stations during the summer ozone season (June 1 to September 15), to reduce evaporative emissions from gasoline that contribute to ground-level ozone and diminish the effects of ozone-related health problems. RVP is regulated throughout the distribution network of petroleum from the refiners to the pipeline shippers, distributors, retailers, and consumers. RVP is also regulated based upon geographic region as specified in the 1990 Clean Air Act. The EPA set the RVP standard at 9.0 psi for designated volatility attainment areas… and the RVP standard at 7.8 psi for certain designated volatility nonattainment areas. Since 1990 geographic regions have come and gone from nonattainment areas with the help of waivers and pollution cleanup.
The east coast attainment areas (Major Cities and Surrounding Counties) are emptying out of winter grade Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) gasoline and lower RVP Summer grade gasoline is already in the major pipelines.