The National Petroleum Authority revised its national sulphur specification for diesel in January 2017. Photo credit: National Petroleum Authority, Ghana

Award Category

Outstanding Policy


Ghana is the first West African country to move to low sulfur diesel and with a new sulfur content standard of 50 parts per million (ppm), down from 3,000 ppm.

This improved fuel quality directly affects Accra's 3 million residents, reducing exposure to poor urban air quality and fine particles. With cleaner fuel now available, Accra can lead in the adoption of cleaner bus standards, including importing ultra-low sulfur diesel for Euro 6/VI - soot free - buses.

Ghana’s move will influence regional efforts to improve air quality. Ghana is a major player in the West African fuel system as a fuel refiner and a major export hub for refined fuels and the policy will help lead of West Africa's desulfurization and adoption of cleaner vehicle emissions standards to lower particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution and black carbon emissions.

In December 2016, Nigeria, Togo, Benin and Cote d'Ivoire joined Ghana in adopting low sulphur diesel fuel standards. The countries also committed to implement cleaner vehicle standards and work with the ECOWAS Commission towards sub-regional fuel and vehicle emissions standards harmonization by 2020. Nigeria's desulfurization impacts all of West Africa, and Ghana's lead role in cleaning up fuels and vehicles for lower PM and black carbon emissions is key to moving the entire region to low sulfur fuels.

Before adopting the new standards the National Petroleum Authority held an extensive public consultation including internal and external stakeholders. It has been key to the development and adoption of the new standards and has established a standing committee for the purpose of implementation, monitoring and enforcement.

Among the measures proposed were:

  • The adoption of low sulphur diesel fuels from 3,000 ppm to 50 ppm for all diesel fuel imports from July 2017
  • The upgrading of the Tema Oil Refinery to produce diesel at 50 ppm by 2020 and diesel at 1,500 ppm from 1 July 2017
  • The adoption of Euro 4/IV vehicle emission standards from end of 2018

According to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition Global Sulfur Strategy, Ghana's smaller Tema oil refinery would cost $140 million to upgrade, an investment of about $6,500 per additional barrel per day of low sulfur capacity. Refinery upgrading in Ghana has been prioritized for two reasons. With recent oil discoveries, Ghana could become a significant fuel supplier in the region. In addition, the planned bus rapid transit corridors in Accra present a good opportunity to connect cleaner fuels with advanced bus technology.

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