What is Vapour Recovery? This is the process where the vapours of petrol or other fuels are recovered so they don’t escape into the open air. In the photo below – it refers to the vapour recovery system being installed on the pump itself, which is known as Stage 2 vapour recovery (VR2).
VR2 captures petrol vapours at the petrol pump when motor vehicles refuel. It captures the vapour in the vehicle’s fuel tank and transfers these vapours to the underground storage tank, preventing their release into the atmosphere.
Aside from reducing potentially explosive vapours and pollution, vapour recovery has the excellent side effect of also reducing your exposure to hazardous substances, including benzene.
…and Benzene is important because…? It causes cancer in humans. Specifically it causes acute myeloid leukaemia.
Why do some petrol stations have it and some don’t? In NSW, service stations have up until the 1st of January, 2015 to install vapour recovery units (the actual technology to be installed depends on location and annual petrol throughput…more information here)
Which should I chose? Given that I have three children – the decision of where I buy my petrol is typically governed by wherever I am when they are not all in the car! However, when I do have the choice, I go to a service station where they have VR2 installed. I haven’t noticed these service stations being more expensive than others, but even if they were, I figure that spending a few extra dollars is better than the potential impact on my health.
Basically if you go to a service station where they have VR2, then you will be exposed to fewer concentrations of hazardous substances such as benzene, than if you went to one without it. I used to live in New Jersey, USA, and one of the perks of living there was that you weren’t permitted to, ‘pump your own gas’. So instead of me being exposed to fuel vapours, a worker had to deal with all those petrol vapours day-in and day-out. This is probably why vapour recovery was so prevalent so many years before it made its way to Australia.
Need more information? Technically this topic demonstrates the sometimes-blurred line that Occupational Hygienists share with Environmental Engineers/Scientists. If you’re looking at exposure to workers – then you need an Occupational Hygienist. If you’re looking at impacts to the environment by way of air or land pollution, you need an Environmental Engineer/Scientist…and sometimes, like me, this is actually the same person!