LPG - Exceptional Energy 2014: more than ever
Although still relatively new, the conference that takes place under the auspices of the Polish LPG Association has become one of the most important events for the LPG industry, not only in Poland, but in the whole Europe and worldwide. Especially that the world’s most popular alternative fuel is treated very comprehensively – not only as an alternative to petrol or diesel, but also as an affordable, easier to obtain and more eco and health friendly replacement for traditional fuels used in households, such as wood, turf or dried dung. But we’ll get to that later. Meanwhile…
… let’s take a moment to focus on one of the most important and anticipated events connected with the LPG – Exceptional Energy conference, namely the publication of the annual report of the Polish LPG Association. Here are its most important figures: the Polish LPG market declined by 1,4% in 2013 (the consumption was 2,15 million tons, over 2 million tons of which was imported), though export increased significantly (more than doubled to Germany and more than tripled to the Czech Republic). The driving force behind the entire industry is still autogas. It accounted for 73,2% of gas consumption in Poland. The decrease in the sector of LPG used as motor fuel was a bit higher than in the overall market – 1,6% (from 1,6 to 1,575 million tons). This is despite a growing number of cars powered by LPG, which – according to the latest estimates – has grown to 2,757 million, which is an increase of 142 thousand compared to 2012.
A natural step after a summary is to present prospects for the future. This was brought up during a speech by Szymon Araszkiewicz, an analyst from Information Market, the publisher of e-petrol.pl. According to him, further development of the autogas sector depends on the following factors: the price ratio of LPG and other types of fuel must be kept (and hence, tax preferences cannot be changed for worse), conversion costs must remain at an acceptable level (although, at the same time, the technology of gas systems must keep on evolving to keep up with advances in engine technology), and also the attitude of drivers towards this fuel (especially those who don’t use it) must change from negative to at least neutral (the idea of adapting an expensive car to LPG is still unthinkable to many people).
But fulfilling all those conditions will not automatically cause the growth of the LPG market. As shown by the figures in the POGP report, stable pricing and fiscal situation, along with the increase in the number of cars does not mean more LPG is sold. On the contrary – the numbers go down each year. This trend may continue, leading to a situation when less than 1,5 million tons of gas per year will be sold as soon as in 2015. According to another scenario, this trend may slow down and turn to stabilization with a slight increase (annual sales at 1.55 million tons). The most optimistic scenario assumes that it may bounce back and reach as much as 1.65 million tons in 2016.
One might think that it’s just pure guesswork – after all, everyone can say that it will be better, worse or just the same. But Szymon Araszkiewicz presented additional conditions for the fulfillment of the most optimistic scenario. It’s about keeping LPG price attractive (which seems very likely), but also – or maybe above all – more car conversions. The number of gas-powered cars goes up, but it could and should grow faster – there are still 9 million petrol-powered cars in Poland, most of which could easily be adapted to gas fuel. Large tanks market has good perspectives (it is estimated that it will grow for sure, the only question is: how fast?), while the cylinder sector will recess (we’ll see how much).
Among the most interesting first day lectures that did not deal with the Polish market were those by Wanjiku Manyara of the PIEA (Petroleum Institute of East Africa) and Suyash Gupta of the IAC (Indian Autogas Coalition), as they gave us a chance to learn more about distant markets that have a big potential for development. LPG is still a relatively new fuel in Africa and more often than in cars it’s used to replace firewood in households. First test programs in the field of using LPG as autogas have already been launched, but the priority is to promote it as fuel for domestic use to avoid health problems caused by indoor smoke (firewood is used also inside!), and extreme deforestation.
There’s a problem of a different nature in India. The market for gas vehicles grows fast and is estimated at around 2 million cars, but the amount of autogas sold by stations is only 350 thousand tons per year. In comparison, in Poland there are 2,75 million LPG-powered cars and the consumption is more than 1,57 million tons of LPG. That doesn’t mean cars in India are so economical. The problem is that cylinder gas is subsidized by the government and autogas isn’t. That’s why many drivers illegally move gas from cylinders to car tanks or even mount domestic gas cylinders in vehicles, which is not only against the law, but also against common sense and all safety regulations.
The second day of the conference also included interesting lectures. First, Andrzej Olechowski – the director of the POGP – was trying to answer the question of whether LPG was the fuel of the past or the future, tending naturally towards the second option. Then, Przemysław Podgórski from Unimot Gaz approached the subject of gas/diesel vehicles as a part of a possible growth of the autogas market due to widespread conversions of vehicles with self-ignition engines to partial LPG use. The last session of the day and the whole event was called New Era Propulsion and – as one might imagine – served as a summary of the contest held by Orlen Gaz and an opportunity for the winning entries to be presented by their authors.
Czakram’s Piotr Oleksyk spoke about technical possibilities and obstacles in the field of powering direct injection petrol engines with gas, stressing main drawbacks and advantages of the indirect vapour state gas injection and direct injection of LPG in liquid state, whereas Cpt. Piotr Kosowski from the District Fire Department in Chrzanów presented results of his own research and practical conclusions concerning rescue operations in the case of LPG tank failure. We will present selected lectures in detail soon.
The 3rd edition of LPG – Exceptional Energy is history. LPG itself, however, has a big future, which will be proven many more times, also during subsequent editions of this useful and highly interesting event. We’re already booking our time for March 2015. Are you?
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