India’s National Highway traffic trucking into gas age with LNG
The green signal has prompted truck and bus manufacturers such as Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland, M&M and BharatBenz to step on the gas with LNG version of their vehicles.
India is trucking into the age of gas, approving liquid gas – LNG, or gas imported in ships – as automotive to help the smoke-spewing long-haul goods and passenger transport fleet to undergo a green makeover.
Some of these manufacturers have already applied for vehicle ‘type approval’, a matter of 2-3 months.
The makeover is being driven by Petronet LNG, India’s largest LNG importer. But the seed was sown by oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan in November last year by launching India’s first LNG bus in Kerala as a pilot project.
Encouraged by the pilot project’s result, government approval and response of the truck makers, Petronet is setting up 20 LNG stations at petrol pumps on highways along the west coast that connect Delhi with Thiruvananthapuram covering a total distance of 4,500 km via Mumbai and Bengaluru.
“Today you don’t think twice before hitting the highway in your car as you are sure of getting fuel. We want to establish a similar certainty for LNG. Talks are on with oil marketing companies for LNG facilities at petrol pumps and Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation for clearance,” company MD Prabhat Singh told TOI.
This makes the Indian transport sector the latest entrant – after a handful of nations led by the US and China – to the LNG covenant. For a country where the transport sector guzzles 40% of diesel sales, the environmental benefit from LNG, in terms of reduced vehicular pollution, will be huge.
A 2015 Morgan Stanley report said globally natural gas vehicles were displacing 1.5 million barrels a day of oil. That number could double – or even grow by another 5.6 million barrels a day, equivalent to China’s oil imports in 2015 – by 2021.
Petronet is eyeing 2.5 lakh new trucks and 85,000 buses that join the fleet every year. “Besides, we are also talking to Gujarat and Kerala road transport corporations for running 20 and 10 LNG buses, respectively, in the first phase. Altogether, we see potential of 8-9 million tonne of annual LNG sales in the automotive sector, in say, five years,” Singh said.
This is considered a cake big enough to eventually attract private companies such as Reliance Industries and Essar who are already running petrol pumps.