While Trinidad and Tobago has been encouraging the adoption of compressed natural gas (CNG) as a vehicle fuel for years, with the government instituting such fiscal incentives as the removal of the motor vehicle tax and the value-added tax on imported original equipment manufacturer (OEM) natural gas vehicles (NGVs) that are less than two years old in January 2011, other countries have already successfully transitioned a sizable portion of their conventional fuel vehicle traffic to CNG fuel.
NGVs have been in use as early as the 1930s in Italy and the Ukraine, but started to achieve more popularity in the 1980s with Canada, China and New Zealand becoming prominent adopters of the cleaner vehicle fuel. Predictably, significant natural gas reserves have been a reliable indicator in pinpointing nations with CNG vehicle markets, let alone liquefied natural gas (LNG) vehicles, as the nations with the 10 largest NGV fleets are also among the world’s top 50 countries in natural gas production.
As CNG requires more fuel space for each gallon of gas equivalent due its nature as a compressed gas, the pioneer vehicles in these countries have typically been buses as their fuel tanks can be installed on the roof, taking up less room than a CNG conversion for a passenger vehicle, which would normally be taking up space in the trunk or truck bed. This minor issue disappears with factory-built CNG passenger vehicles as the fuel tanks are installed on their underside, completely bypassing the trunk.
However, converted CNG vehicles can also run as dual-fuel vehicles, which has a unique advantage in that either gasoline or diesel can be used as a fuel source until a CNG fuel station is found, eliminating one of the more common impediments to CNG vehicles: that their fuel stations are not plentiful enough for widespread adoption. In 2006, the Brazilian subsidiary of FIAT Motors even went so far as to make the Fiat Siena a four-fuel car - 100% ethanol, 100% gasoline, E20 to E25 blend of ethanol and gasoline, and CNG - giving consumers in the sixth largest NGV market not only the opportunity to select their fuel based on market prices, but also seamlessly switch between fuels as per road conditions’ demand for power changes.
Other OEMs from Honda and Toyota to Opel, Peugeot and Volkswagen have been increasingly manufacturing dual-fuel vehicles, also known as flex fuel vehicles, for export to CNG vehicle markets. Accordingly, the worldwide CNG vehicle market is expected to see a combined annual growth rate of 10.1 percent in the current period till 2022, as reported by P&S Market Research. Europe, due to its high gasoline and diesel prices, the European Union’s stringent emission regulations and numerous initiatives (both public and private) seeking to end the dominance of the conventional internal combustion engine, is a market leader in CNG vehicle adoption.
However, other fast-growing CNG market regions - such as South America and the Asia-Pacific - have opted for a more organic growth approach as infrastructure investments from major OEMs selling CNG vehicles have begun to pay dividends. While economic expansion may have slowed in these rapidly developing economies, cost-conscious consumers have still seen the benefit in lowering their fuel bill by 50 percent in switching to CNG.
A case in point when it comes to a dynamic emergent economy adopting CNG vehicles through consumer incentives is gas-rich Nigeria, which has dual fuel conversion kits ranging from US $600 to US $1,000. Additionally, there is a payment plan for motorists where with just a US $60 deposit they can have the remainder of their conversion kit bill paid down through subsequent CNG refills. And increasingly relevant for Trinidad and Tobago with its declining petroleum production, the Nigerian government is expected to save US $1.5 billion annually in imported oil with one million CNG vehicles on the road.
NGC CNG Co. Ltd., the state-owned gas company’s CNG subsidiary, is primed to learn from and take advantage of the best lessons from around the world in fostering their own national market for the 30-percent-less-emissions fuel. Between having a similar conversion kit payment plan and a limited-time fuel incentive programme for commercial fleet owners that is good for 5,000 TTD to 30,000 TTD in CNG, the state-owned enterprise is more than doubling the amount of CNG fuel stations over the next few years in order to have 30 supply points by the end of 2018.
With such dramatic growth coming to the country’s CNG market, additional businesses from National Petroleum Marketing Company and United Independent Petroleum Marketing Company to Massy Automotive Components, Burmac Ansa Motors, D.Rampersad & Co. Ltd. and Dumore Enterprises are stepping in to fill the void. Supplying not just CNG terminals and units, CNG buses and fleet solutions, but also maintaining and marketing them in order to provide a smooth transition to a cleaner, greener Trinidad and Tobago.
The 2018 National Budget came with an immediate effect on the cost of fuel available in Trinidad and Tobago. Minister of Finance, Dr. Colm Imbert, announced that the costs of fuel available (premium, super, regular, diesel, and kerosene) will fluctuate with the price of oil and the price of refined products. Furthermore, with the reduction in the fuel subsidy and with an increase in margins, the price of super gasoline went from TT$3.58 to TT$3.97 per litre and the price of diesel from TT$2.30 to TT$3.41 per litre. Cost of CNG remaining TT$1 per litle.