ABU DHABI // Motorists are being offered a cheaper, cleaner alternative to petrol as the Government moves to improve air quality. Two compressed natural gas (CNG) pumps have been opened at an Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) station on Al Meena Road, near Al Salam Street. Sixteen CNG stations are planned for Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Sharjah. The gas will cost Dh1.34 per kilogram. One gallon of special petrol at Adnoc costs Dh6.25, while a gallon of e-plus is Dh5.75. One gallon of petrol is equal to 3.08kg of natural gas, according to instructions at the pump at the Al Meena Road station.
Petrol vehicles can be converted to use CNG, a fossil fuel that is mostly methane, in addition to petrol. Some government vehicles have been converted to CNG and there are plans to convert some of the emirate's silver taxis, and even some buses. A report posted on the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi website said the Government expected 20 per cent of taxis and government-owned vehicles would run on natural gas by 2012.
CNG is lead-free and produces 90 per cent less carbon monoxide than regular petrol, the agency said. The fuel could cost 30 per cent less than petrol. Adnoc said a typical taxi would recover its conversion costs within 18 months. The introduction of CNG was proposed in 2005 when a technical committee, chaired by Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi and including Abu Dhabi Police and the Federal Environment Agency, was formed.
The Munich-based company Bauer Kompressoren is believed to have been awarded the contract to install the CNG stations. In July, Emilia Muller, the former Bavarian minister of economic affairs, congratulated the company on winning a major contract to set up stations in Abu Dhabi. Mohammed Sahoo al Suwaidi, the general manager of Abu Dhabi Gas Industries Limited (Gasco), part of the Adnoc group of companies, said the company was not ready to detail its plans.
CNG is being used in several countries including Pakistan, Argentina and the US. A few dhows in Dubai have been converted from diesel to CNG, and Sharjah Transport is considering CNG buses and taxis. Michael Fountain, an Abu Dhabi resident from Canada, said he thought the initiative was good but wondered if incentives would be offered to encourage motorists to use the gas. "I guess the challenge will be getting people to commit to long-term thinking," Mr Fountain said.
The Ministry of Interior has also announced that by January, vehicles will have to produce fewer than 500 hydrocarbon emission parts per million in their exhausts when tested for registration renewal. By 2010, that will fall to 300ppm. The limit now is 800ppm. Carbon monoxide exhaust emissions are to be reduced from 4.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent in the new year, and 2.5 per cent by 2010. Vehicles are to be tested for nitrogen oxides from next year.
This week, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, ordered that a ban on vehicles older than 20 years be delayed past Dec 1. By 2010, vehicles older than 15 years are expected to be banned. email@example.com