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29.12.2014
Italy

Marco Seimandi - gaseous fuels will prevail

We take opportunities as they knock, as they never do twice. This means we had the chance to talk to Marco Seimandi, head of marketing at BRC – one of the biggest and most renowned autogas system manufacturers in Italy and entire Europe. Mr. Seimandi shared his views on the current state of LPG affairs around the world, so be sure to read on!
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gazeo.com: From the perspective of a global company, where around the world is autogas growing most rapidly today?
Marco Seimandi: I would call current global situation black and white – there are certain markets going through crisis, with volumes dropping, but on the other hand there are markets that are growing, sometimes very fast. At the moment Russia is one of the fastest growing markets, as are other East European countries, e. g. Ukraine. Some central Asian countries are also very promising, including Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan. Going further east and south, India is definitely a player, too, and South American countries are growing rapidly as well.

South America is known for quite extensive CNG use. Are you saying LPG autogas is also gaining momentum there?
Yes, absolutely. It's a huge continent, with a number of countries, so even if CNG is popular in Argentina or Brazil, there is still much room left for LPG, e. g. in Perù, Chile and in Central American countries.

Marco Seimandi, head of marketing at BRC© BRCMarco Seimandi believes that in spite of turmoil in the fuel market, LPG and CNG will be the winners at the end of the day. We couldn't agree more!

Let's skip north from there and land in the US for a moment. It seems like there's a lot going on over there as far as CNG and LPG are concerned.
It's a market of big prospects and huge untapped potential, but, quite honestly, the pace of development is much below what we all expected. Volumes of converted vehicles remain low and the network of refueling stations is still underdeveloped, with changes occuring slowly. Fleets may be adopting CNG quickly, but they remain a niche and won't provide a breakthrough anytime soon. Furthermore, the Big Three – General Motors, Ford and Chrysler – don't put enough effort into marketing to facilitate widespread adoption of CNG among the general public. It's not to say there's nothing going on there. It's just we expect a lot more from a market as big as the US.

And what about China? Almost all cars sold there today feature petrol engines, so could it be the next promised land for autogas?
It's hard to say at the moment. The car market is growing at a tremendous pace, beyond what anyone expected a few years ago, but still it's difficult to foresee if the rapidly expanding number of cars will translate into CNG or LPG conversions anytime soon. Support of the local government is key to autogas' success anywhere in the world and it's always been like this – until authorities decide to boost development of the CNG and LPG markets, little will happen. Autogas is simply too expensive at the moment and for economic reasons diesel may appear more convenient in China. Environmental benefits play a secondary role and are insufficient to persuade Chinese drivers to switch to CNG or LPG. Not yet. It could be a huge market in the future, but only on condition that the government gets onboard and supports alternative fuels.

While we're at petrol engines in general, it's said that over 50% of them still have MPI-type fuel systems today, even despite rapid adoption of direct injection technologies. When do you think direct LPG injection will prevail, then?
It will take time and for now we need to offer autogas systems for both MPI and direct-injection engines. Of course, vapour and liquid state direct LPG injection will grow in importance over time, but for now we have port-injection technology that's reliable, affordable, mature, relatively simple technologically and still in high demand. It's going to be just like with sequential injection systems – they used to be rare and expensive, but they're commonplace now. Carburetor engines died out naturally years ago and so will MPI engines one day. Then direct-injection LPG systems will dominate, but not just now. We're in a transitory phase and the replacement process needs years to be completed.

There's something in between vapour LPG injection for MPI engines and liquid LPG injection for TSI engines – LPG port injection for engines with direct petrol injection. Some drivers are skeptical about this and don't use it, but they also avoid direct liquid LPG injection, because systems are still very expensive. Do you think autogas' popularity may wane?
No, I don't believe that. As LPG systems for direct-injected engines become more flexible and more affordable, those kind of worries will go away. This situation will not last. As for systems using small petrol interjections, they are being constantly improved so that they use less and less petrol. Drivers shouldn't be worried about that, though – LPG will provide enough savings on its own anyway. Besides, autogas has always meant some sort of compromise and I think this is completely acceptable.

Let's change the topic and speak more globally now. The price of crude oil has dropped considerably lately. Do you think this could affect worldwide autogas market?. Oh yes, definitely. Whenever oil gets cheaper, there is direct reflection of this in our sector – people lose some of their interest in autogas. Anyway, historically the price of oil has always been unstable and subject to cyclic variations. So, even if we are currently exposed to the negative effects of traditional fue…
 

Which directions will BRC go technologically?
What new products does the company have up their
sleeves? Marco Seimandi reveals it all!

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Robert Markowski
source: own interview



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