The government on Wednesday said, it is on track to supply cleaner Euro-IV grade petrol and diesel in 13 big cities from April 1 but sale of Euro-III fuel in rest of the country will be phased over six months.

Currently, Euro-III grade petrol and diesel is sold in 13 big cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata and Ahmedabad while Euro-II emission norm- compliant fuel is sold over rest of the country.

From April 1, the 13 cities have to upgrade to Euro-IV and the rest of the nation to Euro-III but lack of planning has ensured that the programme is being implemented in phases.

“We reviewed industry’s preparedness (to begin cleaner fuel supplies). Euro-IV petrol and diesel will be for sure supplied in 13 cities (by both private and public sector firms) from April 1 but Euro-III will be launched in phases to cover the entire nation by October 1,” Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Jitin Prasada told reporters here.

He said since India is a vast country, Euro-III fuels cannot be supplied from day one at all the places, but industry watchers said the ministry should have begun rolling out the fuel from October 2009 so as to meet the Supreme Court mandated deadline of April 1, 2010.

The delay in Euro-III fuel supplies was because of some refineries have not upgraded their facilities in time, he said adding the implementation schedule would be drawn by the oil companies by February 15.

Petroleum Minister Murli Deora evaded replying to questions on who was responsible for delay in commissioning facilities at refineries to produce cleaner fuel and for the lack of planning for introduction of the Euro-III and IV fuels. The cleaner fuel roll out programme was set in 2002. “You ask them (the oil companies)”, is all he said.

Prasada said upgrading refineries was a mammoth task and there was delay in equipment supplies when all the units go to upgradation at the same time.

Petroleum Secretary R.S. Pandey said while there were no issues of availability of supplies for Euro—IV grade petrol and diesel for 13 cities, the same for Euro-III grade would be rolled out in phases between April and October.

“Some places will get Euro-III fuel on April 1 but the entire country would be covered by October 1, 2010,” he said.

Indian Oil Corp (IOC) Chairman Sarthak Behuria said his firm and other state retailers Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum have received commitment from private refiners Reliance Industries and Essar Oil to supply as much Euro—III and IV grade fuel as the requirement would be.

“We have to assess the demand in 2010-11 and then we can say how much fuel we will need from them... in the starting we may have to import 2-2.5 million tonnes of fuel,” he said.

The Euro IV standard specifies a maximum of 50 parts per million of sulphur in petrol and diesel. Euro-III fuel specifications call for a maximum of 350 parts per million of sulphur will be sold in the rest of the country.

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