LPG in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine: go East!
Quite frankly, data concerning Russian autogas market is scarce and inconsistent. According to some sources, the vast country is even the largest consumer of LPG as motor fuel in the world today. According to our information, there were only 219 autogas stations in Russia in 2007, with 191 of them owned and operated by Gazprom. Due to a low number of vehicles (85 thousand in 2007), the company estimated that the stations' potential is only used up to 15%. However, Gazprom has since invested (and will invest up to 2015) as much as 4 billion roubels in order to launch another 200 stations. The projected effect is raising the number of cars running on LPG to 400 thousand. Moreover, there are plans to boost LPG use in railroad transport and agriculture, so that by the year 2015 the use of LPG becomes 10% of all motor fuel use in Russia.
According to a Russian source, there are 2673 gas refueling outlets in the country (for both LPG and CNG). You can see their specific locations here. Autogas is attractively priced against petrol, at approx. 15 roubels/l (0,35 euro) versus 32,50 roubels/l (0,76 euro) of petrol. Plus, when compared in terms of price to LPG available in Western Europe, it is objectively cheap, too.
If you compare Russia and Belarus country-size-wise, it turns out it is much easier to buy autogas in the latter country, even though there are only 221 stations, owned and governed by a local oil company called Belorusneft. To see on a detailed map (with opening hours, telephone numbers and GPS coordinates), go to this site. Mind you, stations offering autogas are those with two-coloured, blue/black icons.
You probably want to know the prices before you go, so here they are: LPG is priced at 5100 Belarussian roubles per litre on average (0,51 euro/l), whereas petrol costs 7800 roubles/l (0,78 euro/l). As in Russia, fuels are quite cheap for a European traveller, although the price relation between autogas and petrol is not particularly attractive (at 65%). If you find yourself in the need for petrol, be careful, as 92-octane (or even 76-octane) fuel is still available alongside 95-octane regular (with no „98” variant, though). Also, you will see that Russians and Belarussians use a filling nozzle standard of their own kind, generally called the Russian standard. Little is known about it (in fact, it is so mythical we begin to doubt if it exists at all), so buying it in advance is next to impossible. Just hope there are adapters available to borrow at stations.
Ukraine is known as the second largest NGV market in Europe, with 390 thousand CNG-powered cars on the roads and a history dating back to 1937, when the first station was launched. But what about LPG? Apparently, it is readily available, too. However, missing an opportunity to refill with autogas would be unreasonable, since the network of stations is not as dense as e. g. in Poland or Germany. Also, stations are not equally distributed across the country's surface (the further East you go, the fewer there are) and some of them do not accept credit or debit cards, so make sure you have some amount of the local currency (hryvnia) with you.
Autogas is available through Okko and Ukrnafta chains, but not all forecourts include LPG pumps. Comprehensive data is somewhat difficult to obtain, but you will find some station locations here, here and here. Prices are higher near Ukraine's western border, but drop deeper inside the country. On average, LPG is 6,76 hryvnias/l (0,64 euro), while petrol is 9,9 hryvnias/l (0,94 euro). Unlike in Russia and Belarus, the Italian dish nozzle is used, so even if you come from an ACME or bayonet using country, you will find refueling with autogas much easier than with the mysterious Russian adapter.
Countries of the former Soviet Union are not particularly popular with tourists, but there is a lot to explore there, so going on a road trip could actually be a brilliant idea. Thanks to autogas, it is going to be brilliantly cheap, too!
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