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Indonesian CNG in theory and practice
South-east Asia is a part of the world where methane-based motor fuels (particularly CNG) play a significant role in the energy mix today and their market share keeps growing steadily. This is why the ANGVA (Asian NGV Association) decided to host yet another conference and exhibition to highlight to-date achievements of the NGV sector and discuss directions for growth and development in near and more distant future. What are the challenges for the Asian CNG industry and what are the ways to address them?
Apparently, at least as far as Indonesia is concerned, natural gas as conventional fuel substitute has overcome the initial hardships and the worst is now long gone. The country's government, with the ministries for energy, transport as well as trade and industry in particular, did a lot to promote methane-powered vehicles (NGV's) and create positive image for CNG as a fuel that is affordable, environmentally friendly and safe to use. Today the foundations are firm – Indonesians know what CNG is and trust it, so the local NGV sector can focus its efforts on what matters the most, i. e. expanding the refueling station network and encouraging car manufacturers to introduce more models with factory CNG conversions.
Compressed natural gas now faces a chance to further grow and to do so in a rather rapid fashion, since the governmental subsidies on oil have been almost entirely lifted and, as a result, oil-based fuels (petrol and diesel) have become remarkably more expensive. New CNG filling stations are built – several of them have been constructed lately in the Palembang and Surabaya regions, more are about to come in other parts of the country. Efforts are also made to integrate CNG dispensers into existing petrol and diesel forecourts (instead of standalone retail points offering gaseous fuel only). This growth is facilitated by actions taken both by the government and companies from the private sector.
A conversion workshop network is also being established to help boost CNG's appeal beyond what is offered new from showrooms since with a network of qualified installers many used cars could be converted, too, and owners of those already on the roads will gain places to maintain and service their vehicles at. And as far as the speed and scale of CNG adoption in Indonesia is concerned, TransJakarta, a public transport company from the country's capital, has recently bought 600 methane-powered buses to cut the operating costs and corporate emissions.
And while we're talking of public transport, one of the most interesting speeches during the conference was devoted to bus safety, based on experience gathered in Thailand. Pipon Boonchanta of Kasetsart University in Bangkok presented a string of examples of carelessly performed conversions and maintenance negligence resulting in corrosion or mechanical damage to CNG tanks. According to the speaker, CNG as motor fuel will not succeed in any market unless proper safety regulations are set down and properly executed. We couldn't agree more.
Many of the speeches were direct presentations of products, such as complete CNG systems (like the Landi Renzo diesel-gas blending technology) or their components (e. g. tanks by xperion or Hexagon). And one particular presentation revolved around a mobile CNG refueling station, which could also be seen in action as part of the exhibition accompanying the conference. Such stations boost the tempo of CNG adoption across the country, so the number of such units in operation will rise.
Distant as it may seem to Europeans or Americans, the Indonesian CNG market is mature and shows great potential still waiting to be untapped. Compressed natural gas will soon cease to be a niche alternative in Indonesia, instead becoming a regular fuel option. If only all countries developed their CNG markets to the extent seen in the south-east Asian country, global air pollution would be considerably less of a problem.
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