August 21, 2020

Improved Fuel Quality for Central America & Caribbean Region Expected in 2020-2021

Stratas Advisors

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The Central America and Caribbean territories continue to work towards improving the quality of fuels utilized in their respective regions. From what has been observed over the past few years, a number of countries have plans to implement improved fuel specifications for gasoline and diesel utilized in the region. Although the majority of the region does not refine their own fuels, countries continue to adopt ultra-low sulfur fuels for on-road and off-road use. In comparison to the quality of the fuels provided by their counterparts in South America, Central America appears to be making progress in improving the properties of gasoline and diesel used in the region. In particular, the seven Central American countries of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama have plans to further tighten their gasoline and diesel fuel specifications in 2020-2021. 

In Central America and Caribbean, fuel specifications vary for each of the respective countries. The variation in fuel quality could be attributed to the fuel imports received by a country in this region, as well as the refining capability for these countries. The most significant attribute that differentiates the various grades in Central America and Caribbean continues to be sulfur content, which can range from 10 ppm to 1,500 ppm for gasoline (see first map below for Central America) and from 10 ppm to 8,000 ppm for diesel fuel (see second map below for the Caribbean). Of the most notable countries in Central America providing low sulfur fuels, Panama sets a maximum limit of 15 ppm for diesel fuel, while Costa Rica sets maximum limits of 50 ppm for both gasoline and diesel fuel. In contrast, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua set a 1,000 ppm max limit for gasoline and diesel fuels utilized in their countries, while fuel quality is not regulated in Belize. Similar to what was observed in the last report (see Insights, June 12, 2018), the higher-octane grade gasoline (i.e. RON 95) continues to control the market share between the grades utilized in the Central American region. 

For the first time, Belize plans to implement new gasoline and diesel fuel specifications which include an ultra-low sulfur diesel grade (ULSD with max 15 ppm sulfur). ULSD is also available in a few countries of Central America (e.g. Guatemala, Panama) and the Caribbean (e.g. Barbados, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Martinique). In addition, specifications for gasoline, diesel, biodiesel and LPG set under the Central American Technical Regulations (RTCA) generally utilized by the other countries in Central America are awaiting final approval and are expected to be made official by 2021, while there are no further changes planned for fuel specifications in the Caribbean. In contrast, Panama delays the implementation of their biofuel program which was set to restart in 2020. Barring any potential delays, Costa Rica plans to move to Euro 6 or Tier 3 equivalent emission standards for new and used gasoline and diesel fueled vehicles beginning Jan. 1, 2021. In addition, Stratas Advisors learned that policies are currently in place to support the improvement of vehicle fuel efficiency in Costa Rica and Jamaica.

Maximum Gasoline Sulfur Limits in the Central American Region

Source: Stratas Advisors, July 2020

Maximum Diesel Sulfur Limits in the Caribbean Region

Source: Stratas Advisors, July 2020

The full report covers seven Central American and 22 Caribbean countries listed below:

Central America


  • Belize
  • Costa Rica
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Anguilla (U.K.)
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Aruba
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • Cayman Islands
  • Cuba
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Granada
  • Jamaica
  • Martinique
  • Montserrat
  • Netherlands Antilles
  • Puerto Rico
  • St. Kitts and Nevis
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad & Tobago
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • U.S. Virgin Islands

Subscribers can access the full report from our Global Fuel Specifications service.
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