LPG – A VIABLE & ECO-FRIENDLY AUTO FUEL IN INDIA
What is LPG?
LPG is a clean, high octane, abundant and eco-friendly fuel. LPG is obtained from natural gas through fractionation and from crude oil through refining. It is a mixture of petroleum gases like propane and butane.
LPG is a gas at atmospheric pressure and normal temperatures, but it can be liquefied when moderate pressure is applied or when the temperature is sufficiently reduced. This property makes LPG an ideal energy source for a wide range of applications, as it can be easily condensed, packaged, stored and utilised. When the pressure is released, the liquid makes up about 250 times its volume as gas, so large amounts of energy can be stored and transported compactly.
What is the usage pattern of LPG in our country?
89 % of LPG usage in India is for domestic (cooking purposes). About 8 % is consumed by industry. There are 41 million Indian households that use LPG as a cooking fuel.
How will LPG be available for automotive consumption?
Along with petrol and diesel, for which there is heavy demand, LPG is also imported to India. For automotive consumption, LPG will also be imported at prevailing international prices. Domestic production is also slated to increase with more refining capacity being utilized.
Can it be used legally?
The use of LPG as an automotive fuel has become legal in India with effect from April 24, 2000, albeit within the prescribed safety terms and conditions. Hitherto, the thousands of LPG vehicles running in some Indian cities have been doing so illegally by using domestic LPG cylinders, a very unsafe practice. Using domestic LPG cylinders in automobiles is still illegal.
How green is LPG?
LPG impacts greenhouse emissions less than any other fossil fuel when measured through the total fuel cycle. LPG is a clean burning, high octane, environment friendly fuel with proven success in the domestic sector. It generates no smoke or fumes. It emits extremely low levels of Carbon Monoxide, Hydrocarbons and Nitrogen Oxides. It emits virtually no sulphur oxides and no particulate matter. Conversion of petrol to LPG helps substantially reduce air pollution caused by vehicular emissions.
What classes of vehicles are suited to use LPG as a fuel?
LPG can easily be used in LCVs, MUVs, passenger cars and 3 wheelers. Since engines using gas operate at far higher temperatures than those using conventional fuels do, new engines rather than converted engines better serve heavy freight and passenger vehicles. Frequent breakdowns of CNG converted buses in Delhi are testimony to this fact.
Does usage of LPG necessitate sacrificing power?
Not at all. Unlike CNG where engine power reduces upto 20 % due to gas carburetors, LPG can be used similarly to diesel with liquid sequential multi point fuel injection. Also, since it is pressurized at a mere 5-7 bars, LPG does not require drag inducing heavy tanks that is the bane of CNG.
How safe is LPG in automobiles?
The automotive use of LPG has an excellent safety record and various crash tests and fire tests have proved that, owing to the strength and integrity of the fuel tank, it is safer than petrol and on a par with diesel. The conversion of vehicles to LPG has, of course, to be undertaken by a competent person working in accordance with the prescribed standards. Unlike CNG, which is pressurized at 200 bars, LPG is pressurized at just 5-7 bars, which makes it as safe as conventional fuels.
What are the logistics and distribution hassles for LPG?
None that cannot be easily surmounted. LPG is easily transportable and can be stored in stand-alone facilities. Unlike CNG, it does not require an elaborate and expensive pipeline network for its distribution. Dispensing equipment is simple and can be operated with minimum support infrastructure in quick time. Unlike in stand-alone CNG filling stations, filling time of LPG does not increase proportionately with the decreasing quantity of the fuel in the storage tank.
Regulations specify that LPG tankage & dispensers should be at a safe distance from other fuels, so smaller fuel stations may not be able to stock and dispense LPG in addition to diesel and petrol. However, LPG fuel stations do not require elaborate infrastructure and can be built in quick time. For e.g. the average cost of an LPG dispensing station is Rs. 45 lakhs approx while the cost of a CNG dispensing station is Rs. 3 crores approx including pipeline costs.
How viable is LPG for retrofitting or converting vehicles?
LPG conversion kits cost Rs. 15000-18000 for conventional carburetor systems and Rs. 18000-Rs 26000 for MPFI systems. This is as compared to Rs 36000-Rs 45000 for CNG conversions. The viability is best exemplified by measures such as fuel economy and savings on account of less engine wear and tear, less consumption of engine oil, lower fuel cost per kilometer etc.
How has LPG fared in other countries?
The record speaks for itself. There are around 4 million vehicles in several countries around the world using LPG as automotive fuel, supported by 21,000 dispensing stations. Italy has the maximum number of vehicles running on LPG (around 1,100,000) followed by Australia (around 490,000), North America (around 400,000) and the Netherlands (around 360,000). In Japan, almost all the taxis run on Auto LPG and the country has the highest usage of Auto LPG in the world.
Reasons for LPG’s popularity abroad:
- Driving range is equivalent to Gasoline.
- Engines last longer.
- Refueling infrastructure is affordable and in most countries the fuel is less expensive.
- Auto LPG reduces vehicle exhaust emissions, engine vibration and noise levels while providing economic performance.
- It reduces oil consumption and waste oil is less toxic than from a gasoline-engine car.
Which are the user segments that are going to benefit from LPG?
Initially it would be most advantageous for fleet owners to go LPG. Thus govt. departments, corporations, hotels, car rentals, taxis and auto rickshaw fleets, etc. will be the first to adopt LPG and reap the economic benefits of using it. As LPG infrastructure comes up, automobile manufacturers will see growing demand from individuals as well. Finally, growing environmental concerns in our cities will prompt governments to go in for bus fleets with new engines capable of optimally utilizing LPG.
The rise in the prices of Petrol are seen as an advantage to the Auto LPG business as more and more petrol car users are converting to Auto LPG.