Although adoption of compressed natural gas (CNG) as a vehicle fuel has been slow in South Africa, natural gas vehicle growth is nevertheless occurring, according to Nomfundo Maseti, Executive Manager, Piped Gas Regulation at National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA). Addressing a gathering at the Institute for International Research’s Gas Week 2013 in Johannesburg, she outlined the various CNG projects and initiatives currently under way in South Africa, while highlighting the potential for growth in the market.
Currently there are about 385 taxis and buses operating on CNG in the state of Gauteng, where Johannesburg is located. Also in Gauteng, the Benoni Taxi Association (BTA) has reportedly committed to converting at least 20% of its fleet by 2014.
Government initiatives include the National Climate Change Response flagship program, which has advocated CNG use and recognised the transport sector’s role in contributing to the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions in South Africa.
The Industrial Development Corporation has also promoted the introduction of biogas- and CNG-powered taxis and buses for public transport and will fund any associated infrastructure development projects through the Green Energy Efficiency Program.
Moreover, the South African National Energy Research Institute has been partnering with energy company Virtual Gas Network (VGN), a division of CNG Holdings and CNG Technology, since 2009, in an ongoing initiative to help establish CNG infrastructure for the automotive industry.
With the availability of natural gas in neighbouring countries, such as Mozambique and Namibia, and the discovery of offshore gas reserves in South Africa, the gas industry in South Africa is undergoing rapid expansion.
Other challenges facing the CNG sector in South Africa include the public’s negative perception regarding the safety of CNG and users at commuter level often confusing CNG with liquefied petroleum gas. Nevertheless, growth is steadily on the rise. So far, about 385 Gauteng-based taxis and buses have been converted to run on CNG, with the Benoni Taxi Association (BTA) committing to convert at least 20% of its fleet by 2014.
Besides ongoing initiatives by licensed local CNG traders, VGN and Natural Gas Vehicles, both owned by CNG Holdings, integrated gas company Novo Energy launched South Africa’s first commercial natural gas vehicles (NGVs) dispensing station in November, offering the City of Ekurhuleni the opportunity to use an alternative fuel source for transport.
Novo Energy partnered with several stakeholders, including public transport operators, fleet owners and related government sectors to initiate the project, but says the taxi industry has realised more value through the regular use of CNG as an alternative fuel, including economic benefits and longevity of their vehicle assets, through operating their vehicles with a cleaner fuel.
The price of CNG, which is currently R8.66/ℓ (USD 0.87), averages 30% less than conventional fuel equivalents, and Novo Energy reports that the average daily spend on fuel for a taxi driving over 300 km daily, is R600 (USD 60).
Meanwhile, the BTA spends a daily average of R2.5 million (USD 250,000) in yearly spend.
Considering these statistics, Novo Energy spokesperson Kgakgamatso Phatlane tellsEngineering News that the BTA’s prospected yearly saving on fuel through the use of CNG will, therefore, amount to R185-million (USD 18.5 million).
Following the COP17 CPMP7 conference in 2011, among other commitments, South Africa committed to championing innovative solutions to introduce cleaner alternative fuels, thereby reducing carbon emissions.
Novo Energy has, therefore, risen to government’s call by opening the first commercial NGV dispensing station in the City of Ekurhuleni offering comparable services to conventional petrol and diesel stations.
The company says using CNG as an alternative fuel source for vehicles has been encouraged by original equipment manufacturers, such as Tata, Volkswagen South Africa and Mercedes-Benz South Africa, which are conducting feasibility studies for introducing dedicated NGVs onto the South African market.
(Source: Novo Energy)