To Black Sea for 500 rubles

December 24, 2013

Did you know that natural gas (methane) used as a motor fuel is the most eco-friendly energy source for motor vehicles among the conventional ones? It is one of the main reasons why promoting methane use as a motor fuel is a strategic area of Gazprom’s activities.

In recent months our Company has been ‘generating’ news about this subject thick and fast. Methane-powered fleet to be considerably extended, Cutting-edge domestic gas-fired railway vehicles to appear in Russia, Gazprom’s NGV fuel entering the Asia-Pacific market, Gazprom entering Croatian NGV market – these are only some of the headlines of October and November 2013.

And to make sure that such big headlines are driven by real work, we went to the Stavropol Territory to check how NGV fuel of the 21st century is being promoted by our subsidiary company Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol.

The Stavropol Territory is one of the Russian regions where the vast network of CNG filling stations has been operating since mid 1980s. Most of those first stations are still running. In the photo you can see a CNG filling station in Nevinnomyssk. Constructed in 1986, it is still popular among the drivers.

As we have already said, the growing interest in compressed natural gas (CNG) in the modern world is explained, in the first place, by its high environmental outcomes. On average, emissions of CNG-powered vehicles are five times lower than those of gasoline-powered engines. It is especially important for big cities where cars became the main source of air pollution long ago. In the photo you can see Stavropol.

Another undoubted advantage of compressed methane is its comparatively low price versus conventional motor fuels and even propane. An average price of CNG nationwide doesn’t exceed 10 rubles for a cubic meter (the mileage of a car running on one cubic meter of compressed methane is roughtly the same as per one litre of gasoline). In the photo you can see an advertising board in the city center of Nevinnomyssk.

The Stavropol gas workers, as well as Gazprom in general, cooperate with major Russian car manufacturers and distributors to extend the fleet of natural gas-powered vehicles and equipment. According to experts’ estimates, the fleet of methane-powered vehicles in the Stavropol Territory and neighboring regions presently accounts for 6,000 cars, out of which 232 belong to Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol (one-fifth of the whole vehicle fleet owned by the company). In the photo you can see an exhibition of heavy-duty methane-powered trucks on the site of automobile operating company No. 1 of Stavropol.

Thanks to its cost effectiveness, methane is becoming the most popular fuel in public transportation vehicles. In the photo you can see city bus No. 32 on a Stavropol street.

It’s also popular among agricultural producers. Not too long ago Concern Tractor Plants manufactured one of the first Russian tractors, methane-powered and eco-friendly.

Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol is a top subsidiary in terms of CNG sales. The company owns 13 CNG filling stations with the monthly capacity of 180,000 refills. Eight stations are located in the Stavropol Territory, two – in Kabardino-Balkaria and North Ossetia-Alania, and one – in Karachay-Cherkessia. 160 million cubic meters of CNG were sold at these filling stations during the last three years (from 2011 to 2013). In the photo you can see a CNG filling station in Mikhailovsk (Stavropol Territory).

In the near future it is planned to construct ten more filling stations and five shops for converting motor vehicles to CNG under the comprehensive program implemented by Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol jointly with the Stavropol Territory authorities. In the photo you can see a CNG filling station in Georgiyevsk (Stavropol Territory).

Under this program, the construction of a CNG filling station in Kazminskoye village (Stavropol Territory) is nearly complete. The station is located very close to consumers and will, inter alia, service the Kazminskiy collective farm, where most of equipment has been converted to natural gas.

The process of fueling a car with natural gas is as easy and safe as fueling it with gasoline. Experts on gas equipment consider a car owner’s preferences and install filling valves in a place convenient for a client. It’s generally installed under the bonnet (in the photo).

It’s quite unusual for a car owner to choose the boot (in the photo) or a space under the bumper.

How to convert a car to methane? Is it a difficult and a long process? And how much a consumer will pay for it? We’ll try to answer these questions moving to a shop for converting vehicles to compressed natural gas, situated for the drivers’ convenience at the premises of CNG filling station No. 1 in Stavropol.

Let’s watch the process of converting Hyundai Elantra to compressed natural gas. At first, a place is chosen for installing all gas equipment. For example, the electronic control unit (in the foreground) will be installed in the far left corner under the bonnet.

After that, maintenance technicians of the 5th grade Alexander Lisyanov and Yury Ulyanov size up the support structure of the cylinder that will serve as a filling tank.

Then circuit is connected based on the wiring diagram.

A reducer is used to control gas pressure.

After that, Alexander Novak, maintenance technician of the 4th grade fixes the nozzles feeding the engine with fuel.

Now the work is to be done under the car bottom. The workers secure the feeding tubing.

By the way, if you think it is difficult to switch the car converted to natural gas to a ‘gasoline’ mode, you are mistaken. It can be done by simply pressing a button. In this particular case, at the client’s request, the button is placed on the gear shift panel.

And so, the mounting is complete. Now the fuelling system has to be tested. For this purpose, the test fueling of the car with natural gas is done.

The test drive proves the fail-safe operation of the system.

And now there is just one more important finishing touch – the most accurate diagnostics and, if necessary, the checkout of the installed system using special software. This is the task for an engineer. Andrey Vladimirov has to be sure that every process node operates okay.

The workers confirm that everything is fine! The process of converting the car to compressed natural gas is complete. It took four days to do all the work. On average, up to 300 cars are annually converted to CNG at four shops owned by Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol.

Andrey Vorobyov, Engineer at Kavkazavtogaz (right) gives the car owner the certificates guaranteeing the quality of services and newly installed equipment as well as the documents to be submitted to the State Traffic Safety Inspectorate (STSI) for making a record concerning the installed gas equipment in the Vehicle Registration Certificate. By the way, the owner of a gas-powered vehicle has to go the STSI just once – to make the mentioned record – and never again with regard to the conversion matters. The general inspection processes (MOTs) for gasoline- and gas-powered vehicles are absolutely the same.

The conversion of ‘our’ car cost RUB 49 thousand. This sum will be paid by installments during 11 months. Generally speaking, the payback period is about 12 or 18 months depending on how often the car is used. Enjoy the journey!

While we were trying to find out how the conversion shop works, Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol was getting ready to celebrate a sort of an anniversary – and arranged a welcoming ceremony for the 30-millionth client of a CNG filling station. CNG filling station No. 1 of Stavropol, already familiar to us, has been chosen as a venue.

This choice was not accidental. The filling station opened in 1985, and that year also became a starting point for Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol to expand its network of CNG filling stations. In the photo you can see how the station looked like in the 1990s.

A small motor show of private and municipal vehicles converted to natural gas was held at the filling station site.

Next to each vehicle there is an information board explaining the cost-saving advantages of gas equipment installed in the car.

The car owner has no regrets for converting his car to methane.

Alexey Zavgorodnev, Director General of Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol welcomed the journalists who came to the site. He emphasized that the NGV business was a promising segment of the Russian energy market, which had already proved its economic feasibility. “Now, about 80 countries use CNG in the transport sector. And it’s not only because of its economic benefits,” stressed Alexey Zavgorodnev. “Natural gas remains the most eco-friendly fuel to power a car. In this sense, it has no rivals.”

Then the journalists visited the heart of the station – the control room. Nikolai Belykh, C&I engineer introduced the process control system to the guests.

Meanwhile, operator Yuri Kharlamov was keeping track of a number of cars that had been fueled, which was steadily moving towards a 30-million mark.

And finally it happened! Meet Elena Filipovich, professor at a university of Stavropol and the honorable client. She was very surprised to notice that all the cameras were pointed at her, and also microphones, and then the voice over the loudspeaker said a 30-millionth client was fueling a car at fuel dispenser No. 6.

But there was another ‘ace up sleeve’ for the heroine of the day. After congratulating Elena, Alexey Zavgorodnev awarded her with a certificate for 30 free refills and a present – a GPS navigation system, with a built-in dash camera and the addresses of all the Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol CNG filling stations stored in memory.

“Here is an example from my life. Every year my family and I drive to the Black Sea resorts. When the car was running on gasoline, we used to spend two to three thousand rubles on refuels. This year we’ve spent just five hundred. Feel the difference, as they say. I can’t tell there is anything wrong with my car when I drive it,” Elena Filipovich told to the journalists.

Most of the car owners who arrived at the filling station to fuel their cars are the regular clients. The taxi driver Artavaz also spoke in support of CNG, “I am an experienced driver and I’ve been driving on natural gas for several months. I can really see the savings every time I fuel my car.”

The celebrations were over. The owner of the lucky number was seen off in triumph. The journalists left, hurrying to prepare the reports a.s.a.p. And the filling station, not stopping for a moment, went on to fuel cars.

Elena Fomenko, Andrey Tylchak (Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol), Gazprom website Editorial Board

P.S. A month later another film crew ‘landed’ in CNG filling station No. 1 of Stavropol. Gazprom plans to show a movie about NGV fuel to a wider audience. Filming is being done in many Russian cities. In Stavropol the producers of a future movie became interested in methane-powered municipal vehicles. At work – Denis Pavlushchenko, film director at the Nauka 2.0 TV channel (front) and a cameraman Sergey Prokhorov.

You can find large size images in Photos.