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Experimenting with LNG as alternative vehicle fuel

South African liquefied gas supplier DNG Energy and logistics company Imperial are collaborating to test the feasibility of using LNG instead of diesel.

If successful, the experiment could go a long way towards changing the carbon footprint of South Africa’s long haul transport system.

The pilot will specifically look at heavy-duty trucks, though if successful it could expand to across the vehicle value change since Imperial’s fleet consist of light, medium and heavy commercial vehicles. Also, DNG’s plans for the transport industry covers all types.

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The partnership will leverage both companies’ gas supply infrastructure and logistics. DNG Energy’s overall pilot activity in South Africa will concentrate on five trucks – two on 100% LNG and three on dual fuel (LNG and diesel) and two commuter buses on dual fuel.

Putting the pilot in context, DNG Energy Group CEO Aldworth Mbalati explained South Africa consumed 12.9 billion litres of diesel in 2019, of which 71% was consumed by the transport sector. The current Imperial Logistics Africa motorised fleet, excluding rental trucks and buses, is comprised of more than 2,500 owned vehicles.

“Vehicles selected for the DNG Energy and Imperial pilot will be chosen based on certain applications and criteria and they operate locally in South Africa and long-haul cross-border,” said Mbalati.              

The other studies will be on a commuter bus around Johannesburg and trucks on the Johannesburg – Durban and Johannesburg – Cape Town routes. The pilot will run for six months. DNG Energy will design, manufacture and supply the associated LNG dispensing and storage equipment, such as cryogenic tanks to keep natural gas in liquid form.

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The pilot will see look at the performance of the conversion kits installed in the vehicles which enable the dispensing of the LNG. They will test the dispensing itself, test and compare the performance of the LNG vehicles versus dual-fuel vehicles, the cost reduction based on rand value per kilometre as well as the reduction of emissions in LNG vehicles compared to dual fuel vehicles.

“We look forward to the successful completion of the pilot and the resultant technical and fleet assessments, which will help determine the cost benefits of moving to LNG including the success of the supply chain, said Mbalati.

“This move is significant for DNG because our goal is to offer a cleaner energy sources that enables our customers to be more competitive while contributing towards significantly reducing their environmental footprint. Imperial’s operations in South Africa and across the African continent offer a tangle platform to show how LNG can optimise trade for companies and reduce cost.”

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The partnership comes at a time when the world is seeking cheaper alternatives to traditional sources of fuel. “Global demand for LNG experience rapid growth from near-zero levels in 1970 to a meaningful market share today. Half of current global demand comes from Asian and European countries. Industrial and commercial customers in manufacturing, power generation, mining and agricultural sectors are looking to LNG to reduce their cost of energy use and carbon tax.

Mohammed Akoojee, Imperial Group CEO: “Not only does it demonstrate our commitment to a just transition to a lower carbon economy, but it also enables us to provide our sustainability-conscious clients and principals with substantially greener supply chain solutions.”

The role of LNG in Africa’s energy value chain will be explored at Enlit Africa’s digital event between 26 and 28 October. Register now for your front row seat to To LNG or not: is that the question?

Theresa Smith
Theresa Smith is a conference producer for Clarion Events Africa.