The autogas project should be pursued to fruition

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) are economical fuel sources for automobiles. Their advantages over conventional petrol or diesel are now widely acclaimed in the transportation sector. Countries in Europe, Asia and South America have leveraged them for their light-duty and medium-duty trucks as well as heavy-duty vehicles. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) notes specifically that about 1.2 million vehicles run on CNG in Europe, and 18 million in operation worldwide. It also mentioned CNG’s growing penetration in the transport-fuel mix. 

In 2017, Nigeria jumped on this idea when a former minister of state for petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, set in motion a new framework to make the most of the country’s vast gas resources. The policy was to open the door for improved CNG and LPG use in the domestic market, including transportation sector. The ugly impact of Nigeria’s reliance on imported fuel made this a welcomed and celebrated idea at the time.Conversion kits and other measures to enable people switch over to gas powered vehicles were even publicised to be on their way. The pertinent question now is, what has really happened to this plan? 

Nigeria is immensely rich in gas. As of January 2022, data from the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission revealed that the country has 208.62 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas reserves. Attempts to commercialise the gas resource beyond its present value resulted in the drawing up and approval of a National Gas Policy by the Federal Executive Council (FEC). Details of the gas policy had the government exclaiming its desire and push to have ‘Natural Gas Vehicles’ with CNG run in some large Nigerian cities such as Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Kano and Kaduna.  

Potential gains include how much value the country would derive from less carbon emission and forex expenditure on fuel importation. The impact on the environment would also be significant. Gas, according to the plan, would be treated as an independent commodity rather than a by-product of oil production, with clear-cut fiscal frameworks that would support its commercialisation, especially for transportation and domestic energy need. The federal government highlighted its intention to support CNG penetration, set up a viable environment to make the development of fleet markets possible, as well as make sure that there would be enough supplies to meet demands.  

Along the foregoing direction, the federal government was also clear that it does not have the money to invest but would encourage private sector participation. Sadly, five years after this programme was announced, nothing is on ground to suggest that the federal government is serious with the idea that could actually serve as a catalyst to reposition the oil and gas sector. Dayo Adeshina who manages the LPG expansion programme, said recently that the federal government was still committed to the policy. He claimed that about a million out of Nigeria’s reported 22 million vehicles would be converted to use CNG or LPG. But Adeshina also unwittingly admitted that the government had no clear plan on the proportion of each of the vehicles to be converted. That is, between light, medium or heavy-duty vehicles. This is unacceptable for a policy and programme the government sold to Nigerians with so much glee. The excuse of course was that the COVID-19 pandemic had slowed down potential works on the programme.  

While it may now be too late in the day to expect anything remarkable on the idea from the current administration, we hope that the next administration will take the policy more seriously so that we can harness the potential of our enormous gas resources. 

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