While natural gas is widely accepted overseas as an alternative fuel source for commercial vehicles, it hasn’t really been widely discussed among fleet owners in South Africa – although there are some that are now venturing into this arena.
One company which believes in Natural Gas as having a bright future and is going all out to get it more widely accepted is NGV Gas, the natural gas provider of commercial fleets and a division of CNG Holdings.
NGV Gas is enabling the growth of gas-powered transport in South Africa through a rapidly expanding compressed natural gas (CNG) distribution network of stand-alone and in-house fuelling stations in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
According to Stephen Rothman, Chief Executive Officer of CNG Holdings (Pty) Ltd, in recent years, technology has improved significantly to allow for an increase in Natural Gas vehicles, particularly for fuel-intensive vehicle fleets such as public transport and commercial vehicles.
There are various reasons why NGV Gas is following this route with the primary reason being the economic advantages. We all know how the price of fuel has risen over the years and when compared to petrol, diesel and liquefied petroleum gas, natural gas is the cheaper transport fuel alternative.
Why Natural Gas Vehicles?
Natural gas, being the cleanest burning alternative transportation fuel available today, offers an opportunity to meet the carbon emission restraints of the Carbon Tax Bill. In addition, natural gas is safe, because it is lighter than air. In the event of an accident, it simply dissipates into the air instead of forming a dangerously flammable pool on the ground like other liquid fuels. This also contributes to the prevention of ground pollution.
The chemical compositions of Natural Gas allow CNG vehicles to burn much cleaner than traditionally fuelled vehicles. In addition to the far cheaper per-unit cost of Natural Gas, it is one of the safest transport fuels available. It is also much cleaner than petrol and diesel, with up to 27% less CO2, NOX, HC and PM emitted compared to other fossil fuels. This is not just of environmental importance; the cleaner fuel significantly lowers vehicle maintenance and running costs, with less contamination and residue build up across engine components.
Since CNG is a cleaner burning fuel, it leaves little or no residue compared to other fuels. Thus, the damage to the pipes and tubes of the vehicle’s engine is greatly reduced. There is also less particulate matter that can contaminate the motor oil. This results in longer periods in between maintenance procedures such as tune-ups and oil changes. As a result, owners of CNG-powered vehicles enjoy bigger savings on maintenance costs.
Rothman is convinced that natural gas vehicles could serve as a better economic alternative for large fleets of vehicles. Taxis, transit and school buses, airport shuttles, construction vehicles, garbage trucks, delivery vehicles, and public works vehicles can all be well suited to natural gas fuelling. Because these vehicles are centrally maintained and fuelled, it is economical and beneficial to convert to natural gas.
NGV supplies compressed natural gas via a virtual gas distribution network. Through this modular road transport system, NGV can safely and economically transport natural gas to refuelling stations, gas distribution networks, industries, power generation systems, as well as to customers who are not on an existing gas pipeline.
The trailer road distribution system is specifically designed to provide solutions for:
- Customers who are remotely situated from an existing pipeline;
- Large industrial/commercial customers within a 300km radius from a compression station (mother station) in Langlaagte, 5km west of the Johannesburg CBD.
- Smaller customers that will form part of a larger distribution network, such as industrial parks, housing developments, and mixed use developments.
This road distribution system also supplies CNG refuelling stations and customers who have no direct access to the existing gas network (pipeline), and who want an alternative energy source to liquid petroleum gas, diesel, paraffin, and coal. All gas supply equipment can be installed and provided at no direct cost to customers, and they only pay for the CNG used.