Home » Belgium Bans Exports of “Dirty Fuels” to West Africa

Belgium Bans Exports of “Dirty Fuels” to West Africa

by Bola Olabisi


June 06, 2024

The Port of Antwerp will no longer be used by oil companies and traders to export so-called dirty fuels to West Africa. The Belgium government banned the export of toxic motor fuels that are highly harmful to public health and the environment.

Belgium’s Minister of Environment Zakia Khattabi announced the country has banned the exports of toxic fuels that are domestically prohibited but continue to be shipped to West African nations including Nigeria, Ghana, and Cameroon. This comes following the Royal assent of a new legislation that seeks to tighten the quality of exported fuels.

The ban targets oil companies that export motor fuels, primarily from the port of Antwerp, with excessively high sulfur or benzene content that have long been banned in Europe due to their harmful effects. Data show that oil companies have been exporting dirty fuels with a sulfur content as high as 1,500 ppm (parts per million), far exceeding European standards that are capped at 10 ppm.

In imposing the ban that will take effect after three months, Belgium highlights that the standards it applies at home to protect the environment and citizens from the harmful effects of toxic fuels should also apply to exported products. The country now joins the Netherlands which in April 2023 also banned the export of low-quality gasoline and diesel to West Africa through the ports of Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

Netherlands’ decision to stop the exports meant that Antwerp, Belgium’s main sea terminal for oil trade (both crude and oil products), became Europe’s main hub for exporting the toxic fuels. Antwerp is centrally located and as such a main port for liquid bulk cargoes. The port has emerged as a leading European oil and chemical hub. About 30 companies operating in the oil and chemical sector, including at least 10 top world players, are located in Antwerp’s port area which also has two leading refineries.

S&P Global Commodities at Sea data show that West Africa imported about 137,000 barrels per day of gasoline from Belgium in April, an 18 percent increase compared to the same period last year.

Khattabi highlighted that the Netherlands’ decision to restrict the exports of dirty fuels has seen the trade shift to Belgium, which is now being used by oil producers and traders to export gasoline with excessively high levels of benzene and sulfur.

“For far too long, toxic fuels have been departing from Belgium to destinations including Africa. They cause extremely poor air quality in countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon and are even carcinogenic,” said Khattabi.

The move to ban the exports of dirty fuels was taken in collaboration with the Ministries of Energy and Public Health.

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