How government can achieve auto gas for Nigerians, by experts
The decision by the federal government to promote autogas for transportation has continued to gain reaction as stakeholders worry if the government can meet the growing demands of vehicles in the country.
Indeed, in an effort to offer Nigerians an effective option to petrol, the Federal Government recently announced that it will focus on developing Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) otherwise known as auto gas, which is priced significantly lower than Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
According to the government, under the Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP), the objective is to promote domestic use of CNG and support the creation of 1 million jobs by maximizing the domestic use of CNG while reducing reliance on refined petroleum products like kerosene and PMS.
Nigeria’s population is rising, and so is the demand for fuel. Latest figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) have shown that there were about 11.8 million licensed cars on Nigeria’s roads as at Q4 2018, compared to 11.6 million in the corresponding period of 2017.
According to the report, Nigeria witnessed a two per cent increase in the number of licensed cars year on year; that is between Q4 of 2018 and Q4 2017, respectively. With an estimated population of 198 million, Nigeria’s vehicle per population ratio is 0.06.
Today, petrol and diesel are the chief transport fuels used in the country, but they come with economic and environmental costs. It is therefore only practical that Nigeria seeks alternatives to them, and the federal government may have found that in Autogas and CNG.
Mostly due to its reported cost-efficiency and friendliness to the environment, autogas is said to have become the most commonly used unblended alternative vehicle fuel in the world today.
Given the figure of the rising population of vehicles, stakeholders are worried about how the government can harness the potential and also fund the conversion.
They said Nigeria should not be caught napping in expanding her transport fuel options to include natural gas which she has in good amount especially with demands rising amid population growth.
Speaking with The Guardian, on the feasibility of the conversion, Chief Operating Officer, Automedics Ltd, Gbola Oba, said it is technically feasible but the political version to drive the policy can be better expressed by people in government.
Oba said environmentally given the cost of petrol now, it is cost effective. “Because we introduced it in our facility about four years ago, unfortunately the price of petrol then was so low that LPG, CNG or any other form of gas was not competitively priced enough to encourage people to want to take to it. Technically it is feasible and environmentally good for Nigeria.”
On the cost of conversion, he said the level of enforcement will instruct whether it will be effective. Like in all things technical, volume decreases cost.
He said: “If you have to provide a service for a sizable number of people the cost will naturally come down but as at this juncture the average cost fluctuates between N150, 000 to N200, 000 or even more as one of.
“I have heard the Minister say that they will pay for the conversion but I wonder how they can pay for all the vehicles in Nigeria. That’s the prerogative of the Minister to answer.
On acceptance, he said Nigerians will have no choice to accept it because it makes economic sense to do it.
“We have been spoiled for choice with the pump price of petrol but now that the pump price of petrol is reflecting the international price of oil. Even at N161 per litre many people still don’t know that with all the government plans that they are liberalising the pricing of petrol, the point is that as we speak petrol is still subsidised,” he said.
Ultimately, if it is fully liberalised, the Automedics boss said Nigerians are looking at about N200 plus to forestall people smuggling petrol out of Nigeria. “It will go as much as N250 per litre and imagine LPG or CNG or any of the gas you will use to power your vehicle is about N85 to N90 per litre per equivalent to what a litre of fuel will take you. It is going to be a matter of economic common sense,” he said.
Speaking on conversion, he said most vehicles coming from Europe already have a verve, which makes it easy for conversion but it is locked. For North America, it is a normal technical thing. The conversion could be done within a maximum of two days but reasonably you can do it in a day.
In his words: “You need special equipment and some reliable quality materials because you want to be sure that you are sourcing all the things you need from a reliable supplier. For instance if you don’t get a quality gas, it could explode.
“Once the piping is not done well enough, it could explode. The stability of the cylinder too, where it’s going to be placed in the booth of the vehicle, also needs to be factored in. it is something that must be done by a very safety conscious technician.”
Speaking on recharging points for the initiative, Oba said: “There have been some filling stations in Lagos over the years. Oando is the leader in that, they have been in existence doing it for vehicles. Oando has been doing vehicular top up for gas for nothing less than six years. I knew NIPCO about four years ago and we did a collaboration with them. Also the Minister has mandated all NNPC major filling stations to install gas dispensers.”
Dean, School of Transportation and Logistics, Prof. Samuel Odewumi, said the cost of gas is lower in operation than petrol. The major cost is the conversion which the government said they would undertake free of charge for the commercial operators. “We hope they will keep this promise. Except if the conversion will be hybrid that will be using both gas and petrol.”
Odewumi said Bangladesh, a country at the same level of development like Nigeria, runs its motorcycles and Tricycles on gas. And, their towns are environmentally better for it.
“However the major challenge will be in access points. Where are the commercial operators going to be refilling their gas? I have not seen Petrol station dispensing gas for any vehicle anywhere in the country. This aspect must be addressed before massive conversion could be embarked upon. So there must be heavy investment in gas supply and dispensing infrastructure before conversion,” he added.
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