South Africa 15.3.2014 06:12 am

Cheap natural gas gives petrol a go

Attendant Lelethu Magqwira fills up a tank as taxi driver Phillip Ndabandaba looks on as an NGV Gas filling station, supplying compressed natural gas, opens on Main Reef Road in Langlaagte, 13 March 2014. Currently there are just over 100 commuter taxis using the compressed natural gas, and according to Virtual Gas Network (VGN), a division of CNG Holdings and CNG Technology, the interest is growing. Picture: Michel Bega

Attendant Lelethu Magqwira fills up a tank as taxi driver Phillip Ndabandaba looks on as an NGV Gas filling station, supplying compressed natural gas, opens on Main Reef Road in Langlaagte, 13 March 2014. Currently there are just over 100 commuter taxis using the compressed natural gas, and according to Virtual Gas Network (VGN), a division of CNG Holdings and CNG Technology, the interest is growing. Picture: Michel Bega

A new player in the fuel market yesterday opened one of its first major filling station, offering consumers a cheaper alternative to the consistently rising petrol price.

Natural Gas Vehicle (NGV), one of three companies under Compressed Natural Gas Holdings, opened an eight-pump filling station in Langlaagte, allowing suitably equipped vehicles to fill up with compressed natural gas.

Compressed gas – fed from a nearby Sasol pipeline to filling pumps at the station just off Main Reef Road – offers a host of benefits, not least the R10 per litre price tag.

The catch? The installation of a gas canister and the compression system costs around R20 000, a huge capital investment for the average road user.

Around 1 000 vehicles will be fitted with the system free of charge, with a focus on taxis, buses and fleets that spend much time on the roads, Virtual Gas Network sales representative Sakhile Khanyile said.

“A full tank of gas – such as a 30l variant in a taxi – will yield around 300 kilometres of travel time,” he said.

“But the vehicle won’t be able to run off gas alone: you’ll still need some petrol to keep the system lubricated.”

The vehicle would automatically switch back to petrol when the installed gas canister ran dry, with a button in the interior of the vehicle allowing the switch at will.

Gas canisters were filled at NGV Gas outlets at the same rate as traditional petrol pumps – but Khanyile was clear the gas system would have little impact on the vehicle’s factory fuel consumption.

“Where the saving comes in is the cheaper price you pay per litre for natural compressed gas,” he said.

The installation of a large gas canister in the boot of the vehicle also raised immediate safety concerns for some, but Khanyile said the likelihood of the canister exploding was virtually nil.

Sister filling stations were available in Dobsonville, Soweto and Booysens South, with another planned for Mamelodi, to service some 500 taxis planned for conversion.

Taxi owner Ember Ngobeni said she saw immediate benefits after her taxi had been fitted with the system.

“My taxi had to be on the road for a shorter period of time every day to get the return I needed from my driver – mostly because of paying R4 less per litre,” she said.

This had a knock-on effect on the morale of the driver, as he could call it a day sooner, while the savings on maintenance could not be discounted, Ngobeni said.

 

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