CLA-2 CO:R:C:G 084518 SS

Category: Classification

Tariff NO. 2711.12, 2711.29, 2707.20, 2902.30, 2909.19, 2710.00

RE: Butane, Propane, Toluene, Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE), Naphtha

Mr. Arnold Moore American Petroleum Institute 1220 L Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20005

Dear Mr. Moore:

This is in response to your letter dated May 3, 1989, requesting a tariff classification for certain products under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) and the Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS). Customs is no longer issuing classification rulings under the TSUS for prospective transactions. If any questions remain under TSUS, they must relate to specific importations and should be handled under the usual procedures for internal advice or further review of protests.

We are treating your letter as a request for information rather than a request for a ruling inasmuch as your questions seem to be hypothetical in nature rather than related to a specific transaction. Issuing a ruling under these circumstances would not be in accordance with the sound administration of Customs and related laws.


The products in issue are described as follows:

(1) Butane - predominantly n-butane, or isobutane, derived from petroleum or natural gas. Butane is a colorless gas at atmospheric pressure, and is used as a raw material for chemical products and high-octane liquid fuels, including direct blending into motor fuel.

(2) Propane - derived from petroleum or natural gas. Propane is a colorless gas at atmospheric pressure. It is

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used for household and industrial fuels, as material for the manufacture of chemical products. It may also be used directly as motor fuel.

Toluene - an aromatic hydrocarbon obtained from the distillation of aromatic streams primarily manufactured through catalytic reforming processes.

Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) - An ether which is manufactured by chemically reacting methanol and isobutylene. MTBE is used primarily as an EPA approved octane booster for unleaded gasoline through direct blending. It is also used to satisfy requirements for oxygenates in fuels in certain geographic locations (e.g., Denver).

Naphtha - Defined as a generic term which may be applied to refined, partly refined or unrefined petroleum products, and liquid products of natural gas, not less than ten percent of which distill below 347`F (175`C), and not less than 95 percent of which distill below 464`F (240`C) when subjected to distillation in accordance with the Standard Method of Tests for distillation of gasoline, naphtha, kerosene, and similar petroleum products.

It is further stated that naphtha is an unfinished petroleum product which is derived from crude oil and natural gas condensate. It is used primarily as feedstock for catalytic reformers or other refinery processes which are required to change these materials into motor fuel components and as feedstock for chemical manufacturing processes. As a feedstock, these materials are also known by more specific terms such as straight run naphtha, hydrocracked naphtha, thermally cracked naphtha, etc. These materials all have low octane ratings and are not suitable as gasoline blending components, especially in a lead free environment.


Classification under the HTSUS is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). GRI provides that classification is determined first in accordance with the terms of the headings and any relative Section or Chapter notes.

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Heading 2711, HTSUS, provides for petroleum gases and other gaseous hydrocarbons. The Explanatory Notes which should be consulted for guidance in interpretations of the provisions of the HTSUS, state that this heading covers crude gaseous hydrocarbons obtained as natural gases or from petroleum, or produced chemically. Methane and propane are, however, included even when pure.

Heading 2901, HTSUS, provides for acyclic hydrocarbons. The Explanatory notes to this heading state that this heading excludes crude butane, crude petroleum gases and similar crude gaseous hydrocarbons of heading 27.11.

Subheading 2711.13.00, HTSUS, provides for petroleum gases and other gaseous hydrocarbons: Liquefied: butanes with a minimum purity of 90 liquid volume percent. Subheading 2711.29.00.20 provides for petroleum gases and other gaseous hydrocarbons: In gaseous state, butane with a minimum purity of 90 liquid volume percent. Subheading 2901.10.10.00 HTSUS, provides for acyclic hydrocarbons: saturated, butane.

Accordingly, the subject butane is properly classifiable in the above subheadings depending on whether the product is crude, and is in the liquid or gaseous state, or whether in the pure form.

Subheading 2711.12.00, HTSUS, specifically provides for liquified propane with a minimun purity of 90 liquid volume percent. Subheading 2711.29.00 HTSUS, specifically provides for gaseous propane with a minimum purity of 90 liquid volume percent.

Heading 2707, HTSUS, provides for oils and other products of the distillation of high temperature coal tar; similar products in which the weight of the aromatic constituents exceeds that of the nonaromatic constituents. The Explanatory Notes to this heading state that this heading includes the oils and products... whether crude or refined, but it excludes separate chemically defined compounds in the pure or chemically pure state obtained by further fractionation or by other processing of tar oils (Chapter 29). The Explanatory Notes to heading 29.02 provide that to fall in this heading toluene must distill 1 percent to 96 percent by volume within a 2 C range which includes 110.6 C. Toluene of a lower purity is excluded (heading 2707).

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Subheading 2707. specifically provides for toluene of a purity lower than required of heading 29.02, HTSUS. Toluene which meets the specifications of heading 29.02, HTSUS are classifiabble under subheading 2902., HTSUS.

Methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) is a separate chemically defined organic compound and usually produced from hydrogen and carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide. It can be produced from the oxidation of hydrocarbon gases.

Subheading 2710.00.18, HTSUS, provides for motor fuel blending stock. However, headnote 1 (a) of chapter 27 specifically excludes "separate chemically defined organic compounds". Since MTBE is a separate chemically defined organic compound, it is precluded from classificayion under this chapter.

Subheading 2909.19.10, HTSUS, provides for ethers of monohydric alcohols. As an ether of a monohydric alcohol (methanol), MTBE is properly classifiable under this subheading.

Subheading 2710.00.25, HTSUS specifically provides for naphthas (except motor fuel or motor fuel blending stock).


The subject products are classisified as follows:

Butane - having a minimum purity of 90 liquid volume percent:

liquified - under subheading 2711.13.00, HTSUS;

gaseous - under subheading 2711., HTSUS;

chemically defined, not crude - under subheading 2901. Propane - having a minimum purity of 90 liquid volume percent:

liquified - under subheading 2711.12.00, HTSUS;

gaseous - under subheading 2711.29.00., HTSUS.


crude or refined - under subheading 2707., HTSUS;

in pure or chemically pure state - 2902., HTSUS.

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Methyl tertiary butyl ether - under subheading 2909.19.10, HTSUS.

Naphtha - under subheading 2710.00.25, HTSUS.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

6cc: Area Director New York Seaport