Diesel is one of the most used fuels in road transport along with petrol. It is a fossil fuel derived from petroleum.

Differences between diesel and petrol

The technology developed for diesel is currently more efficient than the technology developed for petrol.

For many years, in Belgium and other European countries, diesel has benefited from a more favourable excise rate. Automobile makers have therefore preferred investing in the development of these engines.

Environmental Consequences: which type of engine is better?

Diesel engines emit less CO2 and consume less fuel than petrol engines (with comparable characteristics, among others the horsepower and the cylinder volume).

As regards the emission of pollutants, diesel is one of the main emitters of particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOX). Both these pollutants are considered hazardous to health.

In comparison to vehicles with a petrol engine, vehicles with a diesel engine are preferred more for outside urban use because:

• The use of diesel is found to be more attractive due to the low level of CO2 emissions over long distances.
• Pollutants are emitted in less populated areas.

Emission standards

Strengthening of pollutant emission standards will tend to reduce differences between the petrol and diesel engines. EURO 5 standards, for example, have greatly reduced the particulate matter emission limit and resulted in the widespread use of particulate matter filters.

Production imbalance

Currently, fuel demand in Europe and Belgium is highly unbalanced. Petrol production exceeds demand whereas diesel production is less than the demand.

This imbalance requires:

• performing additional processing in refinery to try and bridge this difference in production and,
• importing diesel and exporting petrol.