EPA has established standards that limit hydrocarbon emissions that evaporate from or permeate through portable fuel containers (PFCs) such as gas cans used to refuel a wide variety of gasoline-powered equipment (e.g., lawn and garden equipment, recreational equipment, and passenger vehicles that have run out of gas). The new rules apply to PFCs manufactured after January 1, 2009.
The new standards limit evaporation and permeation emissions from these containers to 0.3 grams of hydrocarbons per gallon per day. EPA also adopted test procedures and a certification and compliance program in order to ensure that containers meet the emission standard over a range of in-use conditions.
During rulemaking, EPA worked closely with major container manufacturers to help assure that the new cans will be built with a simple and inexpensive permeation barrier and new spouts that close automatically.
Purpose of the Regulations
In 2008 there were an estimated 3.27 billion gallons of fuel dispensed by over 80 million PFCs in the United States that resulted in an estimated 70,262 gallons of spilled fuel annually.
The danger of spilled fuels comes in the form of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that escape into the atmosphere whenever gas leaves a container. The new regulations focus on VOCs ability to permeate through the plastic of the container and emissions released when pouring or caps are left off. VOCs are considered a greenhouse gas and their release can also contaminate ground water.
The new EPA regulations are based on requirements started in California by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in 2000 and updated in 2007. Since 2000, some individual states have been following suit, but the new EPA regulations bring all states in line and since January 1, 2009 all new PFCs manufactured or imported and sold in the United States must be compliant.
The regulations require:
- A single, self venting opening for filling and pouring with no separate vents or openings.
- A treated can body for minimal permeation of fuels.
- Automatic closure, meaning a nozzle which automatically springs to the closed position when not pouring.
- Childproof features as designated by the Children's Gasoline Burn Prevention Act.
The full text of the PFC regulations are found in 40 CFR 59.600 through 40 CFR 59.699.
Estimating Emissions Associated with Portable Fuel Containers (PFCs) (Feb. 2007). This report proposes an approach to estimating the VOC inventory associated with PFCs used for gasoline. (This analyses does not consider PFCs used for either kerosene or diesel fuel.)
Portable Fuel Container And Equipment Manufacturer Contacts List maintained by the California Environmental Protection Agency.
State Specific Resources
CA: Portable Fuel Containers
CT: Spill-proof gas cans
ME: Spill-Proof Gas Cans: Better for you and the Environment
MA: New Portable Fuel Containers Help Improve Air and Water Quality
NH: Portable Fuel Containers
NY: New Gas Cans Fact Sheet
PA: Portable Fuel Containers (Gas Cans)