India appears to be trotting along towards becoming the latest country to run long-distance trucks and buses on LNG, or gas imported in ships, with an eye on reducing air pollution from vehicular emission. After approving the green fuel for automotive use, the government has now notified changes in the gas cylinder norms to pave the way for LNG refuelling stations and help start commercial service by LNG vehicles.
The commerce and industry ministry has notified the amendments to rules governing use of cylinders carrying gas under pressure. This will help establish a storage and supply chain for LNG stations through 'daughter trucks', just like for CNG stations in cities. "Use of LNG as transport fuel features in the priority list of #ModiGovt. Proposed amendments will help in setting up the required infrastructure," oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan tweeted on Friday after receiving a letter from commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
TOI had on August 16 first reported that India's smoke-spewing long-haul goods and passenger transport fleet is in for a green makeover as truck and bus manufacturers such as Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland, Mahindra & Mahindra and BharatBenz are stepping on the gas with LNG version of their vehicles. 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. 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 had told TOI.
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 had said.
This will make 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.