Cheaper Natural Gas Appealing to Car Owners

Two locally owned companies have turned this year’s skyrocketing gasoline prices into a business op­portunity by converting gasoline-powered car engines into en­gines that run on cheaper natural gas.

For nine and seven months re­spectively, Superione Co and Glo­bal Impex Motor Cambodia have been converting Cambodian vehicles that run on petroleum, now sel­ling at the all-time high of $0.88 a liter, to cars that run on Natural Gas for Ve­­hicles, or NGV.

“Within nine months we have con­­verted nearly 4,000 vehicles,” Su­perione Director Keth Hach Ka­na­ra said Wednesday.

“It can save drivers 50 percent com­pared to using gasoline or die­sel,” he said.

Superione has three garages in Phnom Penh and one in Kom­pong Cham town, Keth Hach Ka­na­ra said. Additional ga­ra­ges are planned for Sisophon town in Banteay Meanchey province, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.

GIMC began operations in March, owner San Saran said Tuesday. To install a 58-liter gas tank, the company charges $450.

Both company owners said that contrary to some fears, driving on na­tural gas tanks does not lead to explosions during accidents.

“It can’t explode because the gas can fly out quickly into the air,” San Saran said Wednesday.

He said taxi drivers in Thailand have been using natural gas for some time.

Phnom Penh resident Seak Bun Sea, 33, said that he switched to NGV seven months ago and could not be happier.

“From Phnom Penh to Kom­pong Cham, I use 14.4 liters of natural gas costing $5. Using regular gas costs $12,” he said.

Leng Thun Yuthea, director gen­eral for transport at the Min­is­try of Public Works and Trans­por­ta­tion, said that as an engineer, he thought the government should is­sue a policy encouraging drivers to use NGV.

“Crude oil is now $70 per barrel, and I believe that later this year the price will be up to $100,” he said.

Last week, Finance Minister Keat Chhon told the National As­sem­bly that the government cannot cut fuel taxes in order to re­duce the pump price of gasoline for the hard-pressed public.

Instead, gasoline rations to government ministries would be cut by 10 percent.

The Transportation Ministry is conducting a study on the advantages and disadvantages of using na­tural gas in cars, Leng Thun Yu­thea said.

“Using natural gas for vehicles costs 20 to 30 percent less, but it re­duces engine life by about 20 to 30 percent as well,” he said.

The environmental effects of burning natural gas are also under study, he added.




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