South Africa is a net importer of final petro-leum products, which costs the country R18,5-billion a year.
A new refinery is expected to be built and be operational by 2014, but this will not com-pletely relieve the current dependence on imports of white products.
Alternative fuels need to be sourced to mitigate the rising shortage and price of liquid fuels.
South African National Energy Research Institute (Saneri) green transport programme manager Dr Titus Mathe says that South Africa has to start using alternative fuels now and not wait for a crisis to take place.
To promote the switch to alternative fuels, Saneri is supporting a number projects aimed at introducing alternative fuels, such as compressed natural gas (CNG), into the South African transport sector.
He adds that the use of crude oil products not only is a resource issue, but also affects the environment and human health through particulates polluting the air.
CNG could reduce air pollu-tion to acceptable levels, which is also a reason Saneri supports its production and use.
The advantages of CNG include that it is a clean energy source that has cleaner combus-
tion with reduced emissions, while providing consistent high-quality energy content at a stable price.
Cost reductions will also come from the decrease in maintenance associated with the use of CNG and fewer inci-dents of petrol or diesel theft.
Other favourable factors include reduced health and safety risks, security of supply and the opportunity to use dual fuels, such as switching between CNG and petrol.
CNG group MD Stephen Rothman says that the use of CNG could result in a 75% reduction of particulate matter and will offer cost reductions of between 20% and 30%, depending on the fuel source substitute.
He says the CNG group has plans to roll out the use of CNG in South Africa with government being involved in support through Saneri.
Its partner, Galileo, which has been involved in CNG ventures globally, will supply the tech-nology.
The roll-out includes estab-lishing a mother station with a capacity of 1,5-million giga-
joules in Langlaagte, Johannes-burg, which was recently completed and is now in its testing and finalisation phase.
Thereafter, a filling point will be set up to demonstrate the technology, and then four pilot projects will be established in conjunction with Saneri.
A second mother station will be established with an alternative source of methane to supply Gauteng, followed by further mother and filling station distribution networks in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.
This will be spread to the Cape regions and then the company will expand infra-structure.
Rothman concludes that it is promising that CNG vehicles are starting to come off production lines and 2 477 cities worldwide have CNG filling stations.
He says that the CNG group believes CNG is on the verge of taking off seriously in South Africa.