Nigeria: Petroleum Ministry's Autogas Drive

An oil spill near farmland in K-Dere, Ogoniland (file photo).
15 January 2021

The Ministry of Petroleum Resources under Chief Timipre Sylva believes autogas is capable of solving the challenge of the rising price of petrol and is leaving no stone unturned to actualise it.

For several decades, Nigeria and Nigerians have depended on petrol to power their cars. Vehicular movement is reliant on petrol, a by-product of crude oil which the country has in large quantity.

Most times, especially during festive periods, it becomes taxing for some car owners to driver in their cars because the product (petrol) which helps rev their engines, is scarce. This scenario also affects the socio-economic and political events.

Bothered about the angst the situation engenders, the Federal Government mulled the idea of alternative source of powering car engines. That alternative is gas which Nigeria has in abundance. Unfortunately, Nigeria's natural gas has not been put to use maximally.

Committed to ensuring the use of cleaner fuels in Nigeria, the Federal Government has ordered the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to convert all its official vehicle fleet from petrol to Autogas and natural gas.

The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, gave the order in 2019. Since then, the government has been working hard to ensure a wider adoption of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) to ease pressure on petrol imports.

Sylva said the conversion of vehicles in his ministry and agencies shows that the government is working on the use of Autogas nationwide and supports its declaration that 2020 as the year of gas.

To help the government to realise its dream, THLD International Logistics Limited, a logistics and energy solution firm has launched an air-cooled tricycle powered by LPG and converted vehicles to operate on LPG/petrol bi-fuel systems.

The Chief Executive Officer of THLD Oluwasegun Olajuwon has reeled off the benefits inherent in using this alternative fuel system.

He said: "It is cleaner, it is safer, and it is environmental-friendly and affordable." As a fast-developing economy, it will be beneficial for Nigeria to join other developed and developing countries in the use of Autogas as alternative fuel systems. With this alternative, drivers can easily switch over to LPG after exhausting the petroleum or vice versa.

Olajuwon noted: "In the last three years, I have noticed that for every five filling stations, there is a tank for LPG. They sell cylinders for people to cook. We want to do the same for Autogas as well."

Though it took some time before the average Nigerian realised the benefit of using the LPG for cooking, it became exciting for most people that embraced its use later. So it will seem to be for the use of Autogas. This could be why Olajuwon said "we know the market and we want to encourage Nigerians to cultivate the habit of making use of LPG for their machines. These include cars and all manner of vehicles."

Good news is that the company's conversion centres will be strategically located all over Nigeria, where cars, heavy duty trucks, buses and generators will be converted to run on both LPG and CNG.

But how easy will it be for Nigerians to access the LPG and the CNG for use? To ensure seamless access to these products, President Muhammadu Buhari has directed Sylva to work out the pump prices of the CNG and the LNG. The President gave the order at the virtual launch of the autogas scheme, during which he urged Nigerians to embrace gas as alternative fuel for their vehicles.

As a demonstration of the government's commitment to the project, Sylva had launched the autogas station at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Lugbe, Abuja which served as a showcase for the launch of the National Gas Expansion Programme and National Autogas Roll-out Initiative.

He also launched the five gas-fueled buses at the venue, which he handed over to the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC).

The five buses were just a tip of the iceberg as Sylva revealed that the government will release 100 of the buses to the union going forward.

At a virtually held event at the State House to unveil the National Gas Expansion Programme and National Autogas Roll-out Initiative, President Buhari said: "I express my deep appreciation to Nigerians for their patience, and Organised Labour for their maturity and patriotism as we collectively navigate these global economic and other challenges."

Urging Nigerians to embrace the use of gas as an alternative to fuel, President Buhari said: "It is no longer news that the vast Natural Gas resources, which Nigeria is endowed with has hitherto been used sub-optimally as a result of a dearth of gas processing facilities and infrastructural connectivity for effective and optimal domestic utilisation.

"With a proven reserve of about 203 trillion Cubic Feet (TCF) and additional upside of 600 TCF ranking Nigeria as the 9th in the world currently, the need for domestic gas expansion and utilisation is apparent," he said.

President Buhari said the deregulation of the downstream sector had exposed many to price volatilities in the global market, urging attention to more affordable alternative for energy, especially with Nigeria's heavy reserve.

"Therefore, the roll-out of the National Gas Expansion Programme, Autogas Initiative is coming at the right time, especially in light of global crude oil market fluctuations, coupled with the full deregulation of the local PMS market.

"These developments have made it imperative to focus on gas as an alternative fuel to move Nigeria from the conventional dependence on white products for autos and prime-movers of industrial applications, to cleaner, more available, accessible and affordable energy source.

"The outcome will not only cushion the effect of the downstream deregulation that this government has to painfully implement, but also create new markets and enormous job opportunities for our people."

Mr President said the autogas initiative will lead to increased domestic gas utilisation and enrich the trajectory of national economic growth and development, even as he encouraged everyone to embrace gas in form of LPG, CNG and LNG as an alternative fuel for autos and other prime-movers.

The President directed the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources to commence the process of handover of mass transit buses to Organised Labour as part of government's pledges to continue providing support that will ease the transportation challenges Nigerians are experiencing.

To ensure non-dearth of skills and manpower, Sylva said the ministry is focusing on development of skills, technology and manpower as well as growth in the utilisation of LPG, CNG and LNG.

The National Gas Expansion Programme was initiated last year to boost the utilisation of gas in the short and medium-term and it is expected to create two million jobs per annum, promote skills acquisition and enhance technology transfer in addition to growing the nation's Gross Domestic Products (GDP).

How successful will the implementation of the national gas policy be without inputs from the private sector? The Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) thinks the government cannot do this alone as it needs to partner with the private sector to achieve this.

The group has noted that the Federal Government needs the support of the private sector to successfully implement the National Gas Policy which was aimed at deepening gas utilisation in Nigeria.

According to MOMAN Chairman, Mr Tunji Oyebanji, the nation would soon begin to reap the benefits of the government's gas policies, some of which include the Autogas scheme, and the National Gas Expansion Programme.

Oyebanji said: "Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) will experience a lot of activities this year.

"We expect government's policies in these areas to begin to bear fruits and gas consumption, both for our domestic cooking gas and autogas, will move forward.

"We cannot say that in 2021 autogas will replace the Premium Motor Spirit totally, but we can begin to see some progress being made in that area."

Stating that tagging 2021 to 2030 as the decade of gas was a great move by the Federal Government, he said it required the support of the private sector to ensure its success.

According to him, marketers are ready to key into the autogas scheme, but need the assurances that their investments will be protected. This is where security in all ramifications comes in.

Oyebanji said: "If you want CNG retailers across the country, you will need a lot of financial investment.

"Those who are going to make the investment also need some assurances regarding the protection of their funds.

"There should be continuous engagement and involvement of the private sector as the policy is being fine-tuned and formulated, so that by the time it evolved, it will be driven largely by the private sector."

Oyebanji expressed optimism that significant progress would be made on the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill in 2021, adding that stakeholders should be carried along in the process.

The switch to use of autogas seems to be necessitated by its affordability. Since petroleum products are somewhat costly, it becomes necessary to switch over to an alternative to fuel which is cheaper than petrol.

As an immediate response to the rising price of petrol, and by extension, the return of fuel subsidy, the Federal Government insists that operators in Nigeria's downstream sector of the petroleum industry should shift to Autogas.

The call was premised on the fact that Autogas is cheaper. According to a breakdown provided by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), indicates that the landing cost of petrol rose from an average of N143.60 in December to N158.53 per litre on January 7, 2021. But the product is currently being sold at between N160 and N165 per litre at many filling stations.

However, worried about the continued bearing of the subsidy burden by the NNPC, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, through the National Gas Expansion Programme has intensified efforts to achieve a massive shift to Autogas in 2021.

Without doubt, this laudable policy, which comes on the heels of the concerted and constructive efforts by the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources to revitalise gas-based industrialisation propositions, is an exemplary achievement and significant step towards accelerated gas-inspired economic growth.

Autogas is the common name for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) when it is used as a fuel in internal combustion engines in vehicles as well as in stationary applications such as generators. It is a mixture of propane and butane.

According to Wikipedia, Autogas is widely used as a "green" fuel, as its use reduces Carbon dioxide (CO2) exhaust emissions by around 15 per cent compared to petrol. One litre of petrol produces 2.3 kg of CO2 when burnt, whereas the equivalent amount of autogas (1.33-litre due to lower density of autogas) produces only 1.5 * 1.33 = 2 kg of CO2 when burnt.

"Autogas is the third most popular automotive fuel in the world, with approximately 16 million of 600 million passenger cars powered using the fuel, representing less than three per cent of the total market share."

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