Deepening the Usage of Gas as a Vehicular Fuel

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As a N145 per-litre petrol has the same calorific value of energy with a N90 per-standard cubic metre of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), Ejiofor Alike suggests that the federal government should boost the usage of gas as a vehicular fuel to save foreign exchange used in massive importation of petrol

A recent statistics by the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed rising levels of air pollution in many of the world’s poorest cities, with more than 80 per cent of people living in urban areas exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO limits.

According to WHO’s latest urban air quality database, 98 per cent of cities in low- and middle income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines. However, in high-income countries, that percentage decreases to 56 per cent.

The world body also made a startling revelation that as urban air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, increases for the people who live in them.

By reducing air pollution levels, countries can reduce the burden of disease from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma.
Available statistics showed that ambient (outdoor air pollution) in both cities and rural areas was estimated to cause 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012.

Global efforts to reduce pollution
Through air pollution, Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon particles and methane are emitted into the environment, thus contributing to the near- and long-term mitigation of climate change.

A major international effort towards combating air pollution was the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).
The Kyoto Protocol, which commits its signatories by setting internationally binding emission reduction targets, was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on December 11, 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005, after years of negotiations.

It was the first agreement between nations to mandate country-by-country reductions in greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions. Kyoto emerged from the UNFCCC, which was signed by nearly all countries at the 1992 mega-meeting popularly known as the Earth Summit.

The framework targets to stabilise greenhouse-gas concentrations “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.

The targets for the first commitment period (COP 1) of the Kyoto Protocol cover emissions of the six main greenhouse gases – Carbon dioxide (CO2); Methane (CH4); Nitrous oxide (N2O); Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs); Perfluorocarbons (PFCs); and Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

Role of compressed natural gas
To curb outdoor air pollution, WHO has recommended “policies and investments supporting cleaner transport, energy-efficient housing, power generation, industry and better municipal waste management would reduce key sources of urban outdoor air pollution”.

The use of compressed natural gas as vehicular fuel is one of the many examples of successful policies in transport, urban planning, power generation and industry introduced in advanced countries to reduce air pollution due to the attendant low emissions and reduced sulfur content, which enhance air quality.

With Nigeria’s abundant gas resources, coupled with relatively high cost of petrol (N145 per litre), CNG is a viable alternative to reduce cost incurred on vehicular fuel and curb GHG emissions.

CNG represents the smart and affordable choice for fleet vehicles, transit buses, school buses, waste disposal trucks, delivery vehicles, and others.
According to statistics by the United States-based CNG-ONE, LLC, natural gas offers many advantages over conventional petroleum products.

With the pump price of petrol at N145 per litre in Nigeria, motorists save 40 per cent cost on fuel, apart from reducing emission levels, and extending the life of the vehicle.

In the United States where the average price per gallon of gasoline is as high as $3.60, CNG represents almost a 50 per cent savings over petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel fuel.
A key advantage of CNG is that it is produced locally, thus reducing cost and guaranteeing cheaper price than petrol, which is largely imported. Also, any investment to harness Nigeria’s huge gas resources for use as vehicular fuel will create many job opportunities locally.

CNG is the cleanest burning transportation fuel in the market globally. It burns cleaner than petroleum based products because of its lower carbon content.
It, thus produces the fewest emissions of all other fuels, containing significantly less pollutants than gasoline.

Studies have shown that CNG produces 20-30 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions and 95 per cent fewer tailpipe emissions than petroleum products.

Again, because CNG fuel systems are completely sealed, CNG vehicles produce no evaporative emissions.

In terms of cost of maintenance of vehicle, the use of CNG as fuel reduces maintenance costs while extending the overall life of the engine.
CNG does not contain lead, thus extending the life of the spark plug because of absence of fouling.

Research also shows that CNG does not dilute or contaminate crankcase oil, thus also extending the“intervals between oil changes and tune-ups”.

CNG also extends the life of pipes and mufflers as it does not react to the metals.
With its Octane Rating of about 130, CNG also has performance advantages because of its superiority to petroleum-based products and with this advantage, “CNG vehicles experience less knocking, and no vapor locking.”
Again, since natural gas is already in gaseous state, CNG vehicles have superior starting even under severe cold or hot weather conditions.

CNG also has safety advantage as its fuel storage tanks are stronger and safer than gasoline or diesel tanks, thus reducing the likelihood of accidental release.
While CNG gives off little to no emissions during refueling, petrol emits gases during refueling of vehicles.

Unlike petrol, which has high risks of catching fire when it drops on the ground from vehicles, CNG disperses quickly into the air instead of on the ground, reducing the risk of fire and ground contamination.

NIPCO’s pioneering efforts
Nigeria is one of the worst polluters of the environment, both in terms of flaring natural gas and emitting dangerous gases into the environment, with her lack of facilities to harness gas for domestic uses.

The federal government had wasted trillions of Naira between 2010 and 2015 in the ineffective petrol subsidy regime, when there was a more efficient means of fueling vehicles in Nigeria at cheaper cost and less negative impact on health, safety and environment.

It is also ironical that the country wastes scarce foreign exchange in the massive importation of petrol, while gases, which can be compressed into CNG to run vehicles at cheaper cost, are abundant locally.

While a well-established pipeline infrastructure exists in other countries to deliver natural gas to the areas of need, Nigeria lacks infrastructure to deliver her abundant gas resources estimated at over 183 trillion cubic feet for domestic uses.

The federal government had taken deliberate steps to encourage investors to harness the country’s gas resources to boost economic activities but government did not put teeth to drive the implementation of those commitments by boosting investor confidence.

For instance, of the three companies licensed by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to pioneer CNG revolution in 2007, only NIPCO Plc showed enough commitment to invest in CNG, while government’s lip service, which created unfavourable environment in the gas business, scared the other companies.

Despite the challenges of lack infrastructure to deliver natural gas for compression into CNG, NIPCO invested billions of Naira to partner the Nigerian Gas Company (NGC), a subsidiary of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), to establish the Green Gas limited (GGL), as a joint venture company, to promote the use of CNG in the country.

Some CNG stations have been completed, while others are being constructed in over 10 different locations along the Benin- Warri expressway, Benin- Abuja expressway, Benin-Lagos expressway, and in Warri metropolis, all in a bid to ensure that motorists have access to CNG, which is a safer, cheaper, cleaner, and more efficient auto- fuel and than other conventional liquid fuels.
The impact of GGL on the auto industry in the Benin, Edo State, where over 3,000 vehicles have converted, is enormous, as 40 per cent cost is being saved on fuel by these motorists.

At the former pump price of N97 per litre of petrol, one standard cubic metre of CNG, which has the same calorific energy value with one litre of petrol, was sold at N55, thus saving huge cost for the motorists.

For instance, under the old price regime, N6, 208 was incurred on petrol in a journey from Lagos-Benin, covering 320 kilometres, while N2,933 was incurred on CNG to power vehicle for the same journey, thus saving N3,275.

However, when the federal government increased the pump price of petrol to N145 per litre in May this year, CNG price was adjusted upwards to N90 to maintain the same equivalent of saving on cost of fuel, thus ensuring that both the company and the motorists enjoy a fair deal.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly on Climate Change in September 2015, President MuhammaduBuhari had said that as a party to its protocol, Nigeria was strongly committed to the adoption of a legally binding universal agreement to mitigate climate change.

Also on November 26, 2015, President Buhari approved the submission of Nigeria’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) to address climate change to the UNFCCC, ahead of December 2015 UN Climate Change conference in Paris.

INDC is a yardstick for measuring the commitment of countries to the framework convention.
In the country’s INDC, the federal government committed to 20 per cent unconditional and 45 per cent conditional GHG emission reduction post 2020 and NIPCO’s CNG project is line with President Buhari’s aspiration.
To realise this administration’s aspiration, the federal government should encourage use of CNG as vehicular fuel.

CNG is the emerging alternative vehicular fuel worldwide and with Nigeria’s abundant gas resources, the country cannot be an exception.

The government, through the NGC, should make gas available domestically for NIPCO and other prospective investors in the CNG business.

Apart from reducing GHG emission, and saving fuel and maintenance costs for motorists, the use of CNG to power vehicles in Nigeria will reduce the current Dollar-Naira pressure and save the huge foreign exchange used in importation of petrol.