Cleaner ‘Tier 3’ gas will be available in Utah by the end of the year

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Gov. Gary Herbert tops off the tank of his state-issued SUV at the opening of a new Speedway convenience store and gas station that will sell lower-sulfur “Tier 3” gasoline, in Salt Lake City on Monday Nov. 25, 2019.

After 10 years as Utah’s governor, Gary Herbert half-jokingly converted Monday into a salesman for Speedway gas stations and its parent company, Marathon Petroleum, because they are about to become the first to sell much cleaner “Tier 3” gasoline.

“Look for a Speedway near you,” the governor said into TV cameras at the grand opening of one of the convenience stores on Beck Street in front of the Salt Lake City Marathon refinery. The Speedway brand is new to Utah, replacing 26 Shell and Exxon stores.

“You can get a hot dog,” the governor/pitchman said. “Finish it off with a Krispy Kreme doughnut and a drink — and fill up with Tier 3 fuels. You’ll be happy, and your automobile will be happy. And your neighbors will be happy because we know we’re going to have cleaner air.”

Herbert notes that Tier 3 gasoline produces 80% less pollution in newer cars. “It’s like taking four out of every five cars off the road,” he said.

That’s why the Legislature in 2017 offered post-production incentives to Utah refineries if they would convert to Tier 3 earlier than required by federal law.

Herbert said buying Tier 3 gasoline is an easy step for consumers to combat the winter inversions that are about to hit Utah’s valleys.

“We know inversions are going to happen,” he said. “So it becomes extremely important for us, in fact, to do everything we can to clean up the air. ... All of us need to fuel up as much and as often as we can with Tier 3 gasoline.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) A view of Antelope Island and the Oquirrh Mountains of the inversion on Jan. 14.

Herbert said when the state discussed how to bring in such cleaner fuel earlier than required by federal law, “Marathon stepped up and said, ‘We’ll lead out,’ ” and invested nearly $100 million to produce the fuel here.

The cleaner fuel is not available yet but should be at Speedway stations by year’s end, said Brad Shafer, spokesman for Marathon.

While Speedway is a subsidiary of Marathon, Shafer said Marathon also is a wholesale supplier to Costco, Maverik, Shell and Exxon.

Karma Thomson, Marathon vice president of corporate affairs, said, “Investing in the infrastructure necessary to produce cleaner, lower-sulfur gasoline at our Salt Lake refinery is simply the right thing to do.”

Tier 3 fuel reduces the sulfur in gasoline from 30 parts per million to 10, enabling a car’s catalytic converter to run more efficiently and reduce volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxide emissions on all vehicles. On model year 2017 and newer vehicles, the emission reduction is even greater — up to the 80% mentioned by the governor.

Tailpipe emissions produce about half the air pollution along the Wasatch Front.

“Speedway’s vision is to be our customers’ first choice for value and convenience,” said Speedway President Tim Griffith. "We’re proud to serve Utahns not just with friendly prompt service but also with the fuels that fit the unique needs of this beautiful region.”

Herbert ended the news conference calling it a red-letter day for Utah’s efforts to reduce air pollution, and made another ad pitch. “Come here and fuel up,” he said wearing a Speedway cap. “I’m going to buy some gasoline and a hot dog" — and he did.