Energy group launches natural gas filling station for industrial sector

In support of its overarching ambition to roll out natural gas facilities across South Africa, CNG Holdings subsidiary NGV Gas has launched a compressed natural gas (CNG) public filling station at Langlaagte, in Johannesburg, with the objective of providing “clean energy” and reducing transport costs in the country’s industrial and public transport sectors.

The new public filling station was considered a “significant” step in CNG’s nationwide roll-out plans and was established adjacent to a working CNG “mother station”, located at Sasol’s main supply point to the Egoli Gas network.

CNG Holdings CEO Stephen Rothman said on Thursday that the company was also in the process of converting 1 000 taxis to run on CNG, enabling these vehicles to refuel at the newly launched facility.

“This will have an incredibly positive effect on the fuel and operating costs of South Africa’s most accessible form of public transport. We are also converting existing filling stations to offer CNG as an alternative fuel source,” he commented.

IDC BACKING

Rothman said the initiative was made possible by an earlier investment in the company by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), which saw the finance institution acquiring a 26% stake in the company in April 2013 and a further 12.64% in March this year, giving it an overall 38.64% stake in the group.

The funding provided by the IDC, which would total R120-million by the second quarter of the year, would be used to complete Phase 1 of the CNG group’s roll-out strategy and R100-million expansion programme aimed at promoting CNG as an affordable energy alternative for industrial users and fleet owners.

The investment followed the completion of a three-year feasibility study, which included the implementation of a pilot phase, which found that industrial customers experienced a saving of between 10% and 25% on operating fuel and energy costs and a saving of between 25% and 35% in running fuel costs when using the alternative fuel source.

VIRTUAL PIPELINE

Rothman explained that the “mother station” concept formed a core part of the strategy of CNG subsidiary Virtual Gas Network (VGN), which supplied CNG through road transport, or, what he termed, a “virtual pipeline”.

“This virtual network stemmed from a need for specialised vehicles to facilitate the distribution of natural gas in South Africa. NGV Gas and VGN were, therefore, established to retrofit and upgrade existing vehicle platforms within the transport and industrial market,” he said.

The “virtual pipeline” system was specifically designed to provide solutions to
large industrial and commercial customers who were too geographically isolated to access an existing pipeline.

This was underpinned by VGN, which was able to transport CNG by road in dedicated “tube trailers” to customers who were not on the existing gas pipeline.

“This innovative, modular road transport system safely and economically delivers CNG to customers in the industrial and commercial sectors as well as those wishing to set up internal gas-distribution networks and power-generation systems,” he noted.

GROWING POPULARITY

Rothman highlighted that the development of the filling station was further underpinned by the growing popularity of CNG, which was expected to increase its stake in global energy supply from 20% to 25% between 2005 and 2030.

Global demand for the gas was also expected to rise by 60% between 2005 and 2030.

“Despite these buoyant figures, global gas reserves remain largely underexploited, with yearly production sitting at 110-trillion cubic feet (tcf) despite estimated worldwide reserves of 6 600 tcf.

“The problem stems from issues such as difficulty with transportation resulting in so-called ‘stranded reserves’ – an issue our operations aim to alleviate,” Rothman noted.

 

*Article as appeared in Engineering News on 14th of March 2014

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