Kazakhstan, China to build mini LNG plants network for motor vehicles

Mar 17, 2015 12:00 AM

A Chinese company is prepared to share its experience on converting public and individual motor transport to natural gas. While Kazakhstan is just discussing and making the first steps towards converting motor transport to the cleaner and more economical (compared to gasoline) natural gas, the neighbouring China has long resolved this problem.

It is no secret that the conversion to natural gas would allow the Kazakh government to resolve two problems at once: to finally remove the issue of fuel supply to the constantly growing army of owners of “iron horses”, and to find a practical application for the associated natural gas, which is often flared unmercifully.

In China, a mass conversion to natural gas had become possible with the construction, all over the country, of mini NLG plants. That initiative had been pioneered by the Beijing-based company Xinjiang Ji Munai Guanghui LNG Development.

“According to an intergovernmental agreement signed by Kazakhstan and China, that company has an obligation to build a similar plant in Kazakhstan,” Kazakh Minister of Energy Magzum Mirzagaliev told a round table meeting on the issues of associated natural gas held in Astana in the framework of the First International Forum “Kazakhstan Geology Forum Oil and Gas, 2015”.

The head of Xinjiang Ji Munai Guanghui LNG Development’s, Wei Hun, told the meeting that China had made good progress in building a network of mini LNG plants over the past ten years.

“Currently, there are 66 operational mini LNG plants in China with a total capacity of 34 million cubic meters of gas per day. Another 60 mini LNG plants for a total capacity of over 46 million cubic meters of gas per day are under construction,” Wei said.

According to him, China uses the associated gas from its smaller oil and gas productions and the imported gas arriving in tankers as feed for the plants.

He explained that the mini LNG plants are easy to assemble and dismantle, which makes them usable in any part of the country. China has created a whole network of gas pipelines and storage facilities for LNG, which allowed a number of manufacturers to convert to the LNG fuel as well.

“Further, to ensure mass conversion of motor vehicles to LNG, we have begun manufacturing LNG retail stations. China’s industry is ready to build mobile, portable, and combined stations. In other words, we prepared the infrastructure first,” Wei said.

He added that the government control over all the pipelines was one of the key conditions of the mass conversion of transport. “The price of gas is lower than the price of oil. Many of our citizens see the benefits of LNG. It will all depend on how the government will regulate the process of utilisation of gas. Only if the price is good, will there be an incentive for the entire chain – from producer to user, and from mini LNG plant to gas station,” the head of the Chinese company said.

According to him, his company is planning to begin the conversion with a pilot project for municipal buses in the northern parts of Kazakhstan – in Astana and Karaganda. “If the municipal transport pilot works, we will move to the second phase, which will include all municipal buses and pickup trucks. During the second stage, we can also start developing a system of LNG retail stations to promote conversion of cars first in the northern and eastern areas, and then –all over Kazakhstan,” Wei said.

In his opinion, much will depend on the efficiency of the Astana and Karaganda municipalities. They should develop a joint LNG station programme.

“Once the motor transport conversion project is complete, we can look at converting the industrial sector. That is, when the decision matures, it can be advanced further,” Wei said.

The advantages of liquefied natural gas include convenience of storage, transport and use. LNG allows gasification of remote sites through local LNG storage, saving on expensive pipeline systems.

Liquefied natural gas is a safe, ecologically clean and fuel with high energy characteristics and octane number. The end-user price of LNG is lower than that of liquefied oil gas, fuel oil, and, especially, diesel fuel.

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