Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date



Materials -- Standards -- United States, Fossil fuels -- Sulfur content, Materials -- Standards -- Economic aspects


The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) promotes U.S. economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements, and standards. Through its Office of Standard Reference Materials, NIST is authorized to certify and sell standard reference materials (SRMs) that help users engaged in commerce or research link their measurements to NIST. Developed by NIST’s Technical Laboratories, SRMs are materials certified for their chemical composition or physical properties. As emerging regulations increase the importance of the sulfur content of fossil fuels, NIST is expanding its SRM program to include SRMs for measuring sulfur in the low-sulfur fuels required to meet these regulations. The development of an SRM employs NIST’s unique expertise in measurement. A NIST-certified SRM carries with it the full weight and authority of NIST and the U.S. Department of Commerce. This study estimates the economic impact of NIST SRMs for sulfur in fossil fuels.

SRMs play a key role in the National Measurement System for Analytical Chemistry. They serve as national primary chemical standards and are used as calibrants and as quality assurance materials to evaluate measurement accuracy, to intercalibrate laboratories in a measurement program, and to provide compatibility of measurement data (Taylor, 1993). The absence of SRMs as primary chemical standards would weaken the entire measurement system.

SRMs help users verify the accuracy of measurement methods or calibrate measurement systems. NIST SRMs greatly improve measurement accuracy by reducing the uncertainty of measurement. These improvements enhance the products and services of the measurement industry, such as testing laboratories and analytical equipment manufacturers. More accurate sulfur content information also reduces the likelihood of disputes between sellers and purchasers of fossil fuels, such as coal companies and electric utilities. Other benefits include better production efficiency for the petroleum industry and lower sulfur emissions to the environment.

This study quantifies a portion of the economic benefits associated with sulfur SRMs. Included in the measures of economic benefits are improvements in product quality, production efficiency, and reductions in transaction costs and sulfur dioxide emissions to the environment. In addition, the study identifies and qualitatively describes the impact of NIST SRMs on other less tangible areas, such as research and development programs.


RTI Project Number 7007-006. Final Report

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