Vapour recovery at service stations

Why we need vapour recovery at service stations

The petrol vapours from vehicles and service stations are a big contributor to poor air quality in NSW. Petrol vapours contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) including benzene, xylene and toluene. When these VOCs are released into the air and heated up by the sun they contribute to increased ozone pollution in the atmosphere (commonly known as smog), which can impact on human health, especially for those with pre-existing respiratory conditions.

Increased ozone in the atmosphere also impacts on the environment by increasing surface and air temperature and contributes to the general warming of the planet.

Large metropolitan areas in NSW generally experience higher ozone levels compared to other areas of the state because of their population density and the number of sources contributing VOCs into the atmosphere. In the Sydney basin, the meteorology and topography also influence how these emissions move through the air at different times of the year. For example during summer, warm still conditions will see the vapours stay closer to the ground for longer periods.

To help reduce petrol vapours and manage the impact of ozone in NSW, the EPA worked closely with industry stakeholders to implement vapour recovery (VR) requirements at petrol service stations across these metropolitan areas.

What is vapour recovery?

Vapour recovery control equipment aims to capture petrol vapours before they enter the atmosphere. They are designed in two stages – VR1 and VR2.

VR1 captures displaced vapours from storage tanks when a tanker delivers petrol to a service station, while VR2 captures displaced vapours at the bowser while a motorist refuels.

VR1 technology has been required in the Sydney Metropolitan Area since 1986. In 2010 the Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation (the Regulation) expanded the VR requirements, with petrol service stations from Port Stephens to Shoalhaven and west to the Blue Mountains having to install VR1 or upgrade their bowsers to VR2 technology 

This initiative will reduce VOC emissions from service stations by approximately 5000 tonnes each year.

Vapour recovery regions

 Image - map vapour recovery regions

Note* A modified petrol service station means an existing petrol service station from which petrol was dispensed before 13 November 2009 and on which works are carried out on or after that date that:

  1. involve the breaking up of any forecourt of the petrol service station, and
  2. involve the opening up of petrol product lines and the modification of the storage tanks, tank vents, petrol dispensers, petrol product lines or tanker connection points of the service station, and
  3. require development consent under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

Transition of vapour recovery responsibility to local government

In 2017, regulatory responsibility for VR was transitioned to local councils. Local councils are the appropriate regulatory authority (ARA) for service stations in NSW (under the Protection of Environment Operations Act 1997) and have responsibility for all compliance and planning issues relating to petrol service stations.

Vapour recovery toolkit resources

The local government vapour recovery toolkit was sent on USB to all councils in the VR zones. The USB contains the toolkit and compliance details of petrol service stations in each council area. This resource should assist councils with their VR regulatory responsibilities.

Reporting requirements

The Regulation requires petrol service station owners to install vapour recovery systems and to keep an onsite log book of vapour recovery (VR) commissioning reports, weekly checklists and maintenance schedules.

It is the responsibility of the occupier to ensure appropriate checks and maintenance records are kept in the onsite log book or be made available to an authorised officer within 3 days if records are kept off site.

Occupiers are required to contact their installer/repairer if significant operational difficulties occur.

More information on vapour recovery

Phone: 131 555 or 9995 5555.


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