As the quest for reverting the current economic recession which the country finds itself continues, experts in various field of life have proffered various solutions. Last week members of the Nigerian Gas Association (NGA) converged in Lagos to hold its first business forum for the year. Most speakers at the event focused on the prospect of converting gas to driving the transportation sector. FESTUS OKOROMADU, writes on this key initiative which is said can save the country huge foreign exchange.
The discussion around the economic value of natural gas as the source of energy of the future which Nigeria must key into now, was further buttressed, last week when energy experts from various sector met at the Eko Hotel and Suite Lagos. The gathering, was a business forum powered by the Nigerian Gas Association (NGA).
As it is characteristic of such forums, various experts took turn to make presentations. It was therefore, not surprising when Mr. Mr. Sanjay Teotia, Managing Director, NIPCO centred his presentation on a topic that can be said to be close to the heart of his company, that is using gas instead of premium motor spirit (petrol) to power automobiles.
His choice of topic was apt; “Current Challenges, the Value & the Future of Natural Gas as Transportation Fuel.” Natural gas he stated is inherently clear fuel and has been proven to be the cleanest burning alternative transportation fuel, according to Mr. Teotia.
Expatiating further, he stated that natural gas is superior in safety as compared to liquid fuels stressing that it is more economical and hence his company is in the forefront of the campaign in Nigeria for the use of gas as fuel for vehicles.
Teotia pointed out that natural gas vehicles have huge potential and should be seen as a solution adding that, not only is the technology for natural gas vehicle available but has been proven to be cost competitive.
He stated that renewable natural gas provides a path to near zero carbon emission, hence it is environmentally friendly, stressing that globally natural gas industry is increasing its focus and efforts to support gas transportation.
However, the necessary policies and regulatory framework that will ensure the creation of a conducive investment environment, programs and incentives have to be put in place.
While supporting his argument with figures, Mr. Teotia, said the international markets indicates exponential growth in support of natural gas vehicles. He stated that it is expected that the number of vehicles using gas as fuel will hit 60 million by 2020 translating to 9 per cent of the total global fleet.
The move to further actualise the concept of gas fuel transportation, automobile manufacturing companies are playing a key role as they continue to roll out natural gas fueled vehicles into the market.
Speaking on the need for the use of gas which he noted Nigeria has abundantly as an alternative vehicular fuel, the NIPCO MD, highlighted that; it will reduce dependence on imported petroleum products, hence save valuable foreign exchange (FOREX), reduce subsidy payment burden on the government as well as offer the opportunity for better utilization of the nation’s domestic gas. In addition, it will substantially reduce emissions resulting in improved air quality in cities across the country leading to reduction in the cost of health to both government and citizen.
According to data presented by the speaker, over 23 million vehicles in about 86 countries are already benefiting from the gas for fuel initiative with the top six countries identified as Iran, Bangladesh, China, Argentina, Pakistan, Brazil and India.
He listed the incentives deployed by government of these countries to achieve such success to include the following, capitalizing on huge gas reserves, converting government vehicles as pilot for the project, provision of tax incentives, parliamentary resolution to convert/replace of bus fleet, as well as mandatory conversions by government. Others includes provision of soft loans for conversions and infrastructure, reduction in annual vehicle registration fees, government funding of conversion infrastructures, and mandatory conversions of all commercial vehicles in major cities.
While emphasising the need for Nigeria to join the train of those converting vehicles fuel from petrol to gas because of the immense growth potentials it has, the speaker noted that over 86 countries are already in the forefront of the campaign.
Similarities among top 6 countries
According to Mr. Teotia, the top six countries leading the initiative have similar situations like Nigeria which includes, being developing countries, big importers of liquid fuels, huge subsidy liabilities on liquid fuels, despite having abundant natural gas reserves as well as environmental concerns.
The Nigeria Scenario
Historically, the Nigerian Gas Company back in 1989 introduced the first conversion of gas to vehicle fuel with 2 stations installed in Warri and Lagos with 25 vehicles. The project was acknowledged as been successful with the only downside being the unavailability of conversion stations.
In 2007 the Federal government issued NIPCO Plc license to implement pilot project in Benin City, Edo State. NIPCO in partnership with NGC, led to the formation of a joint venture company, known as “Green Gas Limited,” in Benin City by establishing 9 operational conversion stations which is currently servicing over 4000 vehicles using gas fuel.
By implication, despite over 27 years of conceptualizing the gas for fuel initiative, Nigeria in its usual characteristic has failed to take the project to the level where it will become a globally accepted player.
However, there can be no better time than now to see to the actualization of this global trend. This more so as the speaker, highlighted that if 1 million vehicles are converted to use gas the country will save over $1.5billion required for the importation of 4 billion litres of petrol annually.