GAIL ferries imported LNG in trucks over 1,700 km to fuel demand in east

In a first, state-owned gas utility GAIL India Ltd is ferrying imported LNG in trucks from Gujarat coast to Bhubaneshwar in Odisha as part of a government push for a gas-based economy to reduce emission and carbon footprint.

With gas pipelines yet to reach most parts of eastern India, GAIL has hired specialised cryogenic bullet trucks to transport imported liquefied natural gas from Dahej in Gujarat to Bhubaneshwar, where it is used as CNG to fuel automobiles and piped gas as cooking fuel in kitchens, company Chairman and Managing Director Ashutosh Karnatak said.

LNG is environment-friendly natural gas turned into liquid at minus 160-degree Celsius for ease of transportation in ships and trucks.

“We started transporting LNG through trucks from Dahej to Bhubaneshwar and have broken-even on the business,” he told PTI here.

It takes about a week for the LNG truck to move from west coast to the east and on reaching Bhubaneshwar LNG is regasified or converted back into its gaseous state at an LNG Satellite Station, which was set up at a cost of Rs 10 crore. Following regasification, gas is moved in cascades to CNG dispensing stations and piped natural gas fuelling points.

Gas so supplied is cheaper than alternate fuels such as diesel. LNG can also be used as a fuel directly in trucks and buses but there are only a handful of vehicles currently operating in the country using such fuel.

“Gas is a happy fuel. It not just cuts vehicular emissions (caused by use of liquid fuels such as diesel) but also is an environment-friendly replacement for coal,” he said.

The government is targeting raising the share of natural gas in India’s energy basket to 15 per cent by 2030 from the current 6.2 per cent.

Karnatak said the use of natural gas for generating power and producing fertilizers as well as fuel in steel and aluminum plants, besides city gas operations such as CNG to automobiles and piped cooking gas to households can help achieve the target.

Globally, natural gas constitutes 24 per cent of primary energy consumption. In Gujarat, the share of natural gas in its energy basket is 25-26 per cent because of a network of pipelines that takes the fuel from import or production source to consumption points.

Gas pipelines in India are presently concentrated in west and north, and GAIL is now laying new lines to the east, north-east, and south.

It will complete the ambitious Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga project, involving laying of a 2,655 km pipeline from Jagdishpur in Uttar Pradesh to Haldia in West Bengal, Bokaro in Jharkhand and Dhamra in Odisha by the year-end, he said, adding a pipeline in the south will also be expedited.

Karnatak said in absence of a national gas pipeline grid, transporting LNG through trucks has become a viable option.

“There has been demand from city gas operators in places such as Bhopal and its neighboring Mandideep, Indore, and Mangalore, where there are no pipelines to take gas, for supplying the fuel in LNG trucks,” he said.

The government is planning a network of LNG fuelling stations along the 6,000-km golden quadrilateral highways connecting the four metros, he added.

GAIL is putting together a plan and persuading city gas distributors, gas suppliers, financiers, fleet owners, and truck manufacturers to help build an ecosystem for LNG-fuelled vehicles in the country.

“As many as 24 locations have been identified to set up LNG fuelling stations,” he said, adding trucks and buses can ply up to 800/1,000 km on a full-tank of LNG.

A shift to LNG-powered trucks from diesel will cut pollution and turn Indian highways quieter.