What is Reformulated Gasoline?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 29 September 2019
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Reformulated gasoline, also called RFG, is fuel that is developed and used in the US to accomplish pollution reduction goals. Its federally mandated use in certain highly-smoggy cities, such as Houston, Philadelphia, and New York, began due to obligations imposed by the Clean Air Act. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), reformulated gasoline significantly reduces the amount of smog and toxic air pollutants emitted by vehicles without adversely affecting vehicle performance.

The use of this fuel is connected to the federal reformulated gasoline program, which is a multi-phase effort to dramatically reduce smog-forming emissions and toxic pollutants. The Clean Air Act required the the smoggiest cities to use this reformulated gas. In the beginning, the program involved nine cities, which included Milwaukee, San Diego, and Baltimore. This type of fuel was decided upon because the Clean Air Act mandated changes to emissions levels, which are heavily impacted by vehicles. Other options offered were generally considered less suitable because they would have required vehicle replacement on a massive scale.

Although the federal government adopted the use of reformulated gasoline as part of its clean air efforts, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) credits private industry for the advent of this fuel. Arco Petroleum is noted as being a pioneer of reformulated gas due to their development of a formula called EC-1 in the late 1980s. EC-1 was designed as a lead gas alternative.


Oil companies that sold reformulated gasoline after the implementation of the program were required to produce products that met federal standards. They were still allowed to have personalized formulas, however. One of the major requirements of this type of fuel is that it must contain oxygenates. This standard is usually met by the inclusion of additives such as ethanol or methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE). Consumers have been advised that there is no need to worry about using reformulated gas because it does not pose risks to a vehicle's performance, engine durability, or fuel systems.

The use of reformulated gasoline has been noted as highly effective in accomplishing pollution reduction goals, often exceeding expectations. Its use even proved to reduce cancer risks in a study performed at the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management. These results can lend credibility to claims that reformulated gas is both an environmental and a health benefit.


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