The car owners in Calcutta will have the option to switch to the cost competitive and greener source of fuel from next week as two petrol pumps of the city plan to start dispensing compressed natural gas (CNG) from their outlets.
A conventional retail outlet of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) at Garia and another of Indian Oil Corporation at Rajarhat have been primed for the task, while plans are underway to add a few more in and around the city and important towns of South Bengal.
Separate areas have been earmarked within the two outlets to put up a dispenser and storage tank of CNG.
The employees of the pumps have been especially trained to handle the new fuel.
“I am maintaining a stock of 8,000 kg in my storage tank at the outlet. Moreover, a vehicle carrying equal volume of gas on a casket is on stand-by to ensure there is continuity of supply,” Suresh Bajla, owner of Greenland petrol pump of BPCL at Garia, said.
There is unlikely to be an immediate surge in demand as vehicle owners are unaware of CNG being available in the market.
Bajla said some of the consumers have retrofitted CNG kit to their vehicles and at least one person has bought a new car with dual feed (CNG/petrol).
Rajiv Chanda, owner of IOC pump Champion adjacent to Axis Mall in Rajarhat, said representatives from two auto makers have visited his outlet and have promised to help customers willing to install a CNG kit in their existing cars.
The retail selling price of the gas is likely to be Rs 67.6 a kilogram, which could translate to about 45-50 per cent lower operating costs for individual petrol car owners.
The price of petrol on Friday in Calcutta was Rs 91.35 a litre. Users would also gain in mileage which is said to be higher when run on CNG.
Maruti and Hyundai are planning to bring their dual feed models to the city . Moreover, existing cars have the option to add CNG kit at a cost of around Rs 42,000.
The CNG is being sourced by Bengal Gas Company Ltd (BGCL), a joint venture between GAIL and Greater Calcutta Gas Supply Corp, from the coal bed methane field operated by Essar in Ranigunj.
Since BGCL does not have a retail outlet in the city, it would piggyback on the existing oil marketing companies to penetrate the market. “This is what has happened in cities such as Mumbai and Delhi where there is a strong CNG network. Unless the existing fuel outlets are used, customers will not get access to it at their convenience,” an oil industry veteran noted.
GAIL is building a pipeline connecting Panagarh to Calcutta and Haldia to provide uninterrupted supply of natural gas in a cost effective manner. While the infrastructure is in the making, CNG is being brought by casket mounted on trucks.
This arrangement would hold good till demand picks up, which will happen when consumers feel confident of the availability at their convenience. However, the real change in terms of air quality would be felt when public transport switches from diesel to gas.
Even though natural gas is also a fossil fuel, emission of nitrogen oxides and soot are much less from burning of gas. Incidentally, a part of Calcutta’s transport is already using some form of gas as some auto rickshaws are using LPG.