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With the lowest carbon-dioxide emission, compressed natural gas is believed to be one of the most promising, environmentally-friendly fuels of the future. In addition to the environmental aspect, the benefits of using compressed natural gas (CNG) are a considerably lower price of fuel in exploitation and sale, and its role in promoting energy independence from accessible petroleum fuel reserves. Conversely, the high price of vehicles due to CPG tank installation and engine conversion to CNG, underdeveloped infrastructure – network of CNG filling stations in many countries, as well as the high cost of vehicles for CNG transportation to filling stations are the main obstacles that stand in the way of a more widespread use of this fuel type. According to NGV Global 2013 data, there are 18.09 million natural gas vehicles in the world, which is less than two percent of more than one billion vehicles on this planet. Nevertheless, taking into account that there were merely 1.7 million CNG-powered vehicles in 2001, their number has evidently been increasing by around 15 percent annually over the past decade. The association of natural gas vehicle manufacturers forecasts that the share of these vehicles will increase globally by 2020 at an annual rate of as much as 18 percent. Most CNG-powered vehicles, around 70 percent, are driven in only six countries in the world, namely in Iran, Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil, China and India. As for the European Union, Italy has by far the largest number of natural gas vehicles, around 820,000. The reason is its openness to new makes produced by domestic car manufacturer Fiat, but also cheaper fuel. The number in Germany, however, is 96,000, in Russia it is slightly above 90,000, whereas Ukraine has as many as 388,000 CNG-powered vehicles.
The European Commission’s expert analyses pinpoint three main obstacles to a more widespread use of this environmentally-friendly fuel, namely the high price of vehicles, low user acceptance rate and low CNG filling station network coverage in most of EuropeIn January 2013, the European Commission announced a series of measures to encourage and provide for the construction of alternative fuel stations around Europe that would meet equal standards regarding design and use. It was proposed that CNG filling stations be located at a maximum distance of 150 kilometres all over Europeby 31 December 2020. The construction of CNG stations is estimated to cost the European Union around 160 million euros. The idea is to ensure free travel for CNG vehicles across Europe and make CNG a sustainable alternative to diesel fuel. The availability of compressor stations varies between countries. There are nearly 20,000 public CNG stations around the world, whereas in Europe, according to Cngeurope.com, Italy has by far the largest number of stations, as many as 999, followed by Germany with 912 and finally Austria with 176. This field is still in its infancy in the region, except in Bulgaria which has more than a hundred public gas stations. Vasil Katinčarov, a European Commission fuel quality expert living in Bulgaria, says that savings are the main reason behind such a large number of gas-powered cars in this country. "CNG is twice cheaper than conventional liquid fuels and biofuel, and consumption per kilometre is also lower," he says. In Croatia there are only two public CNG filling stations in Zagreb and Rijeka. Montenegro has none, while B&H has only one internal CNG filling station in Sarajevo. There are two such stations in Macedonia, namely in Skoplje and Kumanovo, as well as in Slovenia, namely in Ljubljana and Jesenice. In Serbia, there are currently two stations in Pančevo and Belgrade each, one in Kruševac, Kraljevo, Čačak and Niš, while the country’s second-largest city, Novi Sad, after many years of anticipation, is still waiting for its public CNG filling station to open.
NIS' high-quality CNG would soon be used in car industry primarily to reduce emissions ofnoxious gases and suspended particlesMr Đurić says that chief impediments to using CNG in Serbia areno CNG regulations and an underdeveloped filling station network in Serbia. "Fuelling must be available along main roads, at every 100 kilometres. Another problem is the fear of the unknown and the misconception thatthis fuel isdangerous due to the high pressure when used," he says. After the testing period of six months, Serbia will receive precise indicators from NIS and will be able to develop a network tailored to its customers. "We have launched the pilot project cautiously, avoiding major investments and the problem of underused capacity. The experience from an internal pump of Srbijagas after more than ten years of operation suggests that there should be around ten vehicles a day in the initial period," says Mr Đurić. Ivan Blagojević, assistant professor at the Motor Vehicle Department of Belgrade Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, says that the scope of gas usage for passenger vehicles in Serbia does not meet the expectations from few years ago. "CNG use in Serbia has always been marked with ups and downs depending on fuel price and installation, but has never become massive," he explains. As regards freight transport, the low use rate in Serbia is believed to stem from the cost of initial investment, even though CNG in freight transport which entails huge mileage proved to be cost-effective, like in Russia.
Only slightly over a million natural gas vehicles are driven in the EU, which is around 0.5 percent of all vehicles in the member states“Back in 1995, I was involved in the first pilot project of installing CNG equipment in several vehicles of GSP Beograd,” Mr Blagojević says. The Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and the Faculty of Mining and Geology and the City of Belgrade were all involved in the project and everything started very ambitiously. A plan has been prepared for the entire project, but everything stopped when the money ran out. To be more precise, it stopped with the construction of CNG filling stations. At that moment Serbia had two filling stations, one of which was in Belgrade. There have been few more attempts, as Mr Blagojević says, to increase the number of methane-powered vehicles in transport companies GSP and Lasta, but have not gone any further from having a few buses remodelled. According to Slavica Stevanović of Belgrade’s Public Transport Service, the construction of gas station is underway. However, since it involves large financial resources, it is uncertain when the project will finish. In 2011 GSP purchased 10 new gas-powered buses and they are still used in the capital’s public transport. It is still a very small number against a total of 1,019 buses in Belgrade. Novi Sad also purchased six buses a few years ago, but there is no news of new purchases to be made by this city either. In the region, Bulgaria has the most developed bus programme. The transport service lines in five largest cities as well as intercity lines are covered by 105 CNG buses. Out of a total of 61,000 passenger vehicles, as much as 95 per cent have been converted to CNG, mainly to make savings, even 75 percent being taxis. Despite all the impediments to using this gas type, CNG is regarded as the fuel of the future because of its environmental properties, and judging from the current situation, the price is not an insignificant factor either.