Gas our great hope

A large-scale switch to LPG won’t hap­pen un­til petrol prices rise, writes NEIL McDON­ALD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

GAS is the one fuel that can safe­guard Aus­tralian trans­port from a global en­ergy cri­sis. Trans­port an­a­lyst and manag­ing di­rec­tor of en­ergy group Rare Con­sult­ing Mark McKen­zie has told a con­fer­ence on gaseous fu­els that, with abun­dant lo­cal sup­plies of LPG and LNG, Aus­tralia has to se­cure its en­ergy in­de­pen­dence.

‘‘We will have a fuel deficit by 2030,’’ he says. ‘‘Aus­tralia’s oil self-suf­fi­ciency will de­cline from 54 per cent in 2007 to less than 20 per cent by 2030 and pos­si­bly as low as 10 per cent if fore­cast oil dis­cov­er­ies are not re­alised.’’

McKen­zie be­lieves gas is a fuel of the fu­ture, par­tic­u­lar given that trans­port con­sumes three quar­ters of oil sup­plies in Aus­tralia. ‘‘There is a good strate­gic fit for gas,’’ he says. ‘‘The other thing about LPG is we have all the in­fra­struc­ture in place.’’

Cur­rently Aus­tralia has 3200 LPG fill­ing sta­tions. ‘‘That’s one in ev­ery two ser­vice sta­tions,’’ he says.

McKen­zie sees LPG as a passenger-car main­stay, with LNG and CNG be­ing more widely used in the heavy trans­port sec­tor.

The ben­e­fits of LPG are well doc­u­mented. It de­liv­ers lower emis­sions, can be used in diesel en­gines, gen­er­ates less en­gine wear and is half the cost of petrol.

Aus­tralia’s gas re­serves should last an­other 65 years, ac­cord­ing to Geo­science Aus­tralia. McKen­zie be­lieves newer and more re­li­able LPG in­jec­tion sys­tems will help ac­cel­er­ate de­mand. How­ever, an­other con­fer­ence del­e­gate, GM-Holden en­ergy and en­vi­ron­ment di­rec­tor Richard Mar­shall, warns Aus­tralian mo­torists are un­likely to switch to LPG in great num­bers while petrol re­mains rel­a­tively cheap.

Gov­ern­ment in­cen­tives have helped get buy­ers into LPG-pow­ered ve­hi­cles and its taxfree sta­tus means it is cheaper at the pump.

On the LPG ex­cise ques­tion, McKen­zie ac­cepts it will af­fect growth to some ex­tent when it comes in from 2011, but he says the fuel must start pay­ing its way.

LPG at­tracts no ex­cise un­til 2011, at which time a tax of 2.5c a litre will be in­tro­duced, in­creas­ing by 2.5c each year un­til July 1, 2015, when it will be capped at 12.5c a litre. McKen­zie says the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment could use a tax-free in­duce­ment for the de­vel­op­ment of other new fu­els such as bio-fuel.

‘‘One chal­lenge in terms of some of the new fu­els, par­tic­u­larly bio-fu­els, is they will not be com­pet­i­tive without that ex­cise ex­emp­tion, ever,’’ he says.

‘‘We should be looking for fuel sources that just need a win­dow of ex­emp­tion to al­low them to gain a foothold in the mar­ket on the un­der­stand­ing they will be able to pay their way in the fu­ture.’’

Last year about 120,000 ex-fac­tory and retro-fit­ted LPG cars were sold. Or­bital Au­to­gas Sys­tems’ Tony Fitzger­ald told the con­fer­ence he ex­pects 150,000 LPG ve­hi­cles will be sold each year by 2015. Of those, about 80,000 will have fac­tory gas sys­tems, and liq­uid in­jec­tion and se­quen­tial vapour equip­ment will take over from the older sys­tems.

Less than 5 per cent of Aus­tralia’s LPG fleet uses se­quen­tial in­jec­tion, but Fitzger­ald be­lieves the rate of growth will ac­cel­er­ate.

‘‘One chal­lenge the LPG in­dus­try faces is the range and de­gree of some of the tech­nol­ogy,’’ he says. ‘‘Some needs im­prove­ment.’’

More gear: newer and more re­li­able in­jec­tion sys­tems will at­tract buy­ers.

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