Joburg’s taxis rev up on natural gas

About 1 200 minibus taxis in Johannesburg are using natural gas as fuel and the suppliers of this gas believe that increasing numbers of commercial vehicles will run on gas in the future, instead of on petrol or diesel.

The carbon tax that was implemented on June 1 has garnered increasing interest in compressed natural gas as an alternative to petrol, said Wayne Williams, marketing manager of the container company CNG Holdings. CNG’s vehicle fuel division, NGV Gas, gets its gas from Egoli Gas.

For CNG’s clients it’s not just about cleaner energy, but about competitive prices compared with diesel, paraffin and, over the long term, coal.

Compressed natural gas can halve the fuel bill of vehicles that do a lot of kilometres a month, said Williams.

Apart from taxis, about 150 fleet vehicles – such as trucks and delivery vehicles – in the province have been modified to use natural gas as fuel.

Gauteng has more than 830 000 light delivery vehicles for which gas can be a cost-effective option, said Williams.

CNG is in talks with vehicle manufacturers about importing vehicles that use gas, which are already being sold in other parts of the world.

The natural gas is compressed at CNG’s facility in Langlaagte and delivered to customers in special cylinders by road.

If the gas runs out, the vehicle can still be driven using petrol or diesel.

The modification required for a vehicle to run off these cylinders costs about R26 000.

No mechanical modifications to the vehicle are made and it still retains its conventional fuel tank because a small amount of petrol or diesel is still used when the engine is turned on.

If the gas runs out, the vehicle can still be driven using petrol or diesel.

Compressed gas costs about R9.99 a litre, compared with R16 a litre for 95-octane petrol and more than R14 for diesel.

CNG estimates a vehicle that travels 5 000km a month – such as taxis and delivery vehicles – can recoup the modification’s cost in about seven months.

CNG has its own gas fuel station in Langlaagte, Johannesburg, as well as gas pumps at four other filling stations in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

In the near future, it plans to add another four pumps at filling stations.

Williams said natural gas is a very safe fuel. It does not have to be stored underground, has a very high ignition point and isn’t toxic.

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Because it is lighter than air, it dissipates quickly in the event of a leak, rather than forming a puddle on the ground.

Gas is becoming increasingly attractive to other energy consumers.

Ten state hospitals in Gauteng have converted their boilers from coal energy to natural gas to save money and cut back on pollution.

Williams said that although coal costs only about 33% as much as natural gas, which costs about half as much as liquid petroleum gas (LPG), natural gas is still cheaper in the long term if the maintenance that is required is taken into account.

In the eight years that NGV has been supplying compressed natural gas, there has not been a price increase, said Williams.

This is because the price of natural gas is stable and does not fluctuate in the way LPG, which is linked to the cost of brent crude oil, does.

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