Magazine article Science News

Fueling Cleaner Air

Magazine article Science News

Fueling Cleaner Air

Article excerpt

Two years ago, the big three U.S. automakers joined forces with 14 oil companies to investigate how changing the nation's mix of fuels and cars will likely affect urban air pollution. This Auto/Oil Air Quality improvement Research Program has just completed its first phase -- a series of tests that compared emissions from new (1989) and older autos (1983 to 1985 models) running on a wide range of experimental fuels. The more than 2,200 separate emission tests, involving 34 vehicles, quantified 150 components of exhaust and evaporative released. Researchers thon plugged the resulting 200 million data points into an air-pollution model for los Angeles to gauge how changing such factors as the temperature at which 90 percent of the fuel evaporates (T-90), or the percent of aromatics, olefins and sulfur in a fuel, could alter outdoor levels of ozone and other toxic chemicals.

"The biggest effect we saw was a 22 percent reduction in projected air releases of [volatile organic] hydrocarbons in the current vehicles when you reduced the T-90 from 360[degrees] to 280[degrees] F," observes Leo McCabe, a chemist and consultant with Mobil Research and Development Corp. in Paulsboro, N.J. That's important, he notes, because hydrocarbons are a major ingredient in the recipe for generating the ozone in urban smog. The lower T-90 fuel also proved the only experimental gasoline to lower all four "air toxics" monitored in this program -- benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and 1,3,-butadiene. …

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