Starting NGV Member
Posted - 01/09/2008 : 10:04:36 PM
| INTERVIEW / NORKUN SITTHIPHONG
Backing CNG all the way
LPG will soon be a thing of the past, predicts a senior Ministry of Energy official
ALFRED THA HLA
A national road map is being drawn up to cater for a projected 10-fold growth in CNG (compressed natural gas) consumption in the automotive sector by 2012, with a concomitant cut in liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) imports; all this amidst growing concerns for the diesel sector.
Critics say there's been a lot of hype about CNG and that somebody has been cooking the books: the number of CNG vehicles on our roads has been grossly overestimated, they claim; and the whole idea is farcical anyway because CNG refuelling stations are few and far between.
But the Ministry of Energy tells us that the owners of some 70,000 meter taxis are mulling a switch from LPG to CNG thanks to an incentive programme initiated by the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) under which the 40,000 baht conversion fee will be waived and a cash incentive of 2,000 baht per vehicle paid out.
According to Norkun Sitthiphong, deputy permanent secretary at the ministry, CNG replaced 2% of petrol consumption in 2007, which prompted the government to suggest raising the target to 20% by 2012 - hence the aforementioned road map.
"Thailand's daily fuel consumption was 70 million litres [diesel, 71%; petrol, 29%] with CNG replacing 1.4 million litres of fuel last year. By the end of 2008, CNG should account for 6% [of petrol consumption], or 4 million litres, and by 2012 it should increase to 14 million litres, or 20%."
The CNG road map is taking into account a massive expansion planned in the number of CNG stations both in the Bangkok metropolitan area and in the provinces, with the laying of three major natural-gas pipelines.
A budget of 50 billion baht budget is to be provided for the construction of the so-called "Asia route" pipeline (linking Bangkok to Nakhon Sawan), an Isan route (to Nakhon Ratchasima) and a southern route (to Prachuap Khiri Khan).
"The conventional method of transporting CNG is by truck via the 'mother-daughter' station method. Our target for 2012 is to expand the CNG distribution network from the current 38 provinces to at least one station per province. It's not enough, but it's a start, a beginning!"
Although Motoring has not yet been able to ascertain the exact locations of all these NGV (natural gas vehicle) stations, the ministry claims that, as of July 25, Bangkok had 225 CNG stations, and that this figure will jump to 355 by year's end.
In addition, it says that the number of vehicles capable of transporting up to four tonnes of CNG will almost double (from 605 trucks to 930) by the end of 2008.
Thanks to the global panic which caused the price of crude oil to soar to US$147 per barrel before it settled down to around $120, we appear to be well on the way to achieving a target of 120,000 NGVs on our roads; the ministry said that, as of late July, the figure had already exceeded the 90,000 mark.
Norkun added that in three or four years the PTT will be operating 740 CNG stations nationwide and that it costs about B20m to build a single station.
"People-carriers, taxis in particular, which number over 70,000, will eventually switch to CNG from LPG. Even vans and other variants will also be using CNG in the near future. The bulk of petrol sales is in Bangkok so it's natural to concentrate everything in the capital."
So what about CNG supply?
Thailand currently extracts 3,600 mmscfd (millions of standard cubic feet per day) of natural gas: 2,500 mmscfd from indigenous sources and 1,100 mmscfd from Burma. The automotive sector consumes only 2% of this; over 70% is used for electricity generation and the rest by industry.
"Even if NGV consumption grows from 80 to 440 mmscfd, our supply is secure," Norkun said. "The government has already signed contracts with Burma and Qatar Gas for liquefied natural gas [LNG] for 2012 which translates into a million tonnes of gas reserves per year."
He reasoned that even when the price of CNG (now B8.5/kg) increases to B12 next year and 13 in 2010, the increased rate of roughly one baht per kilogramme will still be more attractive then the cost of petrol (now 3 to 4 baht/kilometre).
But surely the deputy permanent secretary hasn't overlooked the fact that more than 65% of our country's vehicles still run on diesel? "Well, if we don't promote CNG, they'll use LPG which is imported at a high price of US$930 per tonne."
Norkun stands firmly behind his ministry's CNG push which he defended as an effective way to reduce our dependency on imported oil, adding that this pro-CNG policy will affect neither the Ecocar project nor the E85 and E100 initiatives.
10 questions for Norkun
- Favourite historical figure?
King Naresuan the Great. He united Siam.
- Favourite car?
Mercedes-Benz. It is a very reliable car, but a bit pricey.
- Favourite timepiece?
I like slim watches so the first one I bought for myself was - no surprises! - a Longines, but today I'm wearing one that my daughter bought for me.
- Favourite restaurant?
Our canteen at the ministry because I eat there every day [laughs].
- Favourite rock 'n' roll band?
George Benson for his renditions of jazz. If it has to be a band, then ... Santana.
- Favourite athlete?
Tiger Woods (A keen golfer himself, Norkun has an 18 handicap and has had three holes-in-one).
- Favourite destination, and why?
Chiang Mai. My house is up there. I'm a Chiang Mai native and I love mountains and waterfalls.
- Most treasured possession?
A Buddha amulet given to me by my father.
- Greatest achievement? The CNG road map - if, or when, it becomes a reality!
- if you were put in charge of national automotive policy for a day, what would you do?
Develop alternative energy sources to provide motorists with more options.