(EnergyAsia, May 30, Friday) — Big truck fleets should take the lead and convert from diesel to natural gas, says Perth-based independent petroleum industry analyst Peter Strachan.

“With natural gas (methane) less than a quarter of the price of diesel, there are massive savings to be made,” he said, in a statement released by Australia-based conference organiser IIR Conferences.

“For the one-off cost of establishing their own refueling stations, companies operating long-haul truck fleets could thumb their nose at diesel and gasrol prices that are set to go in only one direction – upwards.”

Mr Strachan said Australia is sitting on abundant reserves of natural gas – estimated to be more than 140 trillion tcubic feet – which are earning big export dollars in the form of liquid natural gas (LNG).

Western Australia relies heavily on gas for power generation and there are significant plants in Queensland, South Australia and Victoria. However, with escalating crude oil prices, there is a clear case for extending the use of gas in motor vehicles,” he said.

“Besides being cheap, natural gas burns more cleanly than petrol and diesel and gives off much lower emissions.

“Many motorists are already reaping savings from the use of LPG (a mixture of propane and butane). However methane-based natural gas is cheaper and burns even more cleanly. 

“Providing natural gas as an alternative fuel choice for cars would require an enormous investment in fuelling infrastructure. However it’s not such a big problem for trucks and buses equipped with long-range tanks and access to fuelling depots, where they can use either compressed natural gas or LNG.

“The conversion technology is available and some buses and trucks are using LNG in Western Australia.

“Wesfarmers has recently commissioned a 175 tonnes per day (t/d)) LNG plant in Perth, designed to supply remote power plants with fuel as well as fuel for the transport industry.

“All that’s required to extend the use is the entrepreneurial and political will.”

Mr Strachan is a speaker at the 2008 South East Asia Australia Offshore Conference (SEAAOC) in Darwin in July, where gas will be a central focus of energy discussion.