A fuel additive introduced to combat air pollution is to be withdrawn by BP Amoco from use in California, in response to environmental and health fears.
The governor of California has already ordered methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) to be phased out by 2002, due to evidence that it is accumulating in drinking water.
A spokesman at the company’s London headquarters would not rule out a worldwide ban.
The company admitted that the decision to withdraw MTBE was partly influenced by the need to win regulatory approval for its acquisition of US oil giant Atlantic Richfield.
MTBE is used at smaller concentrations in Europe (5%) – where it is used to improve fuel performance – than in the US (15%), where it is used to cut exhaust emissions.