Interest rising in CNG as alternative to gas, diesel

As part of efforts to reduce exhaust fumes from industries and vehicles, more Vietnamese businesses and agencies have shown interest in switching to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) to replace gasoline, diesel and propane.

A driver fills up a taxi with gas in HCMC (Photo: SGGP)

However, converting to the more environmentally friendly fossil fuel has been slow due to the cost of converting old systems to those that can accommodate CNG.

According to reports from the Ministry of Planning and Investment’s Clean Tech Fund, harmful fumes released from industries this year could account for up to 33 percent of total emissions in the country. Meanwhile, electricity production could account for up to 27 percent of total emissions and vehicles could account for 24 percent.

Last year, bus operators in Ho Chi Minh City expressed interest in switching to CNG as the gas is also more cost-effective than regular fuel.

The Sai Gon Passenger Transport Company and HCMC Bus Cooperative Alliance each imported one CNG bus. The former company has also cooperated with PV Gas South Company to invest in special CNG stations and transport vehicles to provide the buses with CNG.

One station has now been built in the southern coastal province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau and is able to meet the fuel demand of 500 buses.

Another station has also been built in the Sai Gon Passenger Transport Company’s campus in District1, HCMC. Five trailers with a capacity to transport 3,760 kilograms of CNG each, are ready for operation.

The Ministry of Transport, its department in HCMC, and CNG providers have also held three seminars to introduce plans for implementing more CNG technology in Vietnam.

Meanwhile, the ministries of Natural Resources and Environment, and Planning and Investment also view the use of CNG as helping the country to cope with climate change.

According to Dr. Nguyen Trung Viet from the HCMC Department of Natural Resources and Environment, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other environmental organizations have funded $250 million for a program to increase the use of CNG in Vietnam.

Companies ask for assistance

Le Trung Tinh from the HCMC Department of Transport said that many transport businesses are hesitant about switching to CNG because of the initial cost involved in switching to a system able to accommodate the gas.

Changing engine types would save fuel costs, but the vehicle quality would reduce, he said.

Importing a fleet of new CNG buses is too costly for most operators with the vehicle prices double those of standard gasoline-using ones.

The Sai Gon Passenger Transport Company on March 29 sent the Ministry of Planning and Investment a proposal asking the ministry to approach Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung about approving a tax exemption on imported CNG bus engine systems.

The company says it is now waiting for a reply from the Government.

Mr.Tinh said that HCMC now has about 5,000 buses with 1,300 of them in need of modernization.

If authorities help businesses pay for clean-energy buses, the city would be able to convert 1,300 of the buses into more environmentally friendly vehicles.

By Nguyen Khoa – Translated by Hong Ha

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