Oleg Korobchenko on transition to gas: ‘There is no task of gaining benefit in a flash’

Tatarstan continues transitioning transport to gas, but the economic effect is not obvious due to poor infrastructure

Despite international sanctions on delivery of equipment for gas liquefaction, Gazprom LNG technologies i started the construction of a small-scale LNG factory in the Sviyazhsk Multimodal Logistic Centre. Board Chairman of the company Alexey Kakhidze said this at a briefing in the Tatarstan Cabinet of Ministers on 14 March. Investments are assessed at about 28 billion rubles. The second LNG factory in Tatarstan is designed for water transport bunkering and expansion of liquefied gas consumption in the republic, but the demand is not sufficient yet for the full use of “methane” NGV filling stations, players of the gas motor fuel market claim.

15,000 vehicles with modified engines

“There is no task of gaining benefit in a flash, it is necessary the whole (gas filling) infrastructure start ‘living,’ then we can save money,” Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Trade of Tatarstan Oleg Korobchenko explained difficulties of the transition of all vehicles to alternative types of fuel (methane and natural gas) in the republic this way.

The performance of the previous “gas decade” had been summed up on the same day in the House of Government before the preparation of the new gas motor fuel development programme. As it turned out, Tatarstan car owners didn’t feel all benefits of methane right away. Over 13,100 transport vehicles have switched to gas in the last 10 years, said the head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Tatarstan. Perhaps, the figure isn’t impressive in absolute terms, but it is 26 times up the zero level, he noted.

This year Tatarstan plans to start using 85 million cubic metres of gas fuel (Editor’s note: the first 10-year gas motor fuel development programme expires in 2023) and increase the number of NGV filling stations to 50 (now 44), said Oleg Korobchenko. Almost all big cities and roads have gas stations of Gazprom Gas Motor Fuel (27), private investors build them. The total investments in the expansion of methane infrastructure wasn’t revealed.

Diversity of gas station infrastructure will allow increasing the fleet of vehicles running on gas by another 2,000 vehicles — to 15,000, Korobchenko specified. Federal subsidisation programmes of engine modification costs (about 100,000 rubles) are a stimulus for a transition to gas. Firstly, car owners are offered to be compensated 50% by a republican subsidy, while the second part of the costs will be paid back with a fuel card to fill the tank for 50,000 rubles.

Also, a new subsidisation programme started to work last year when engine is modified for free, but then the car owner pays for the work by filling the tank for five years. Despite the bonuses, NGV filling stations in the republic aren’t hundred per cent loaded. The highest utilisation rate is in Kazan and its suburbs, it remains low in the southeast, Director of Gazprom Gas Motor Fuel branch in the Middle Volga region Bulat Gazizullin.

Buses and tractors running on gas: environmental impact

The shift of agricultural machinery to LNG will become the main novelty of 2023 in Tatarstan. As the vice premier of Tatarstan said, the first Belarus tractors equipped with 240 horsepower gas engines will start working in the fields this year. However, countryside people will unlikely get the economic benefit from the transition to gas-powered tractors. Initial costs on modification and filling from a mobile tanker are the reason, explained Oleg Korobchenko.

“It is early to talk about the economic effect. We will able to when the whole agro-industrial complex switches to gas, there is a NGV filling station nearby. Now we can be talking about environmental impact only,” he explained.

Public transport in cities is switching to gas. According to Bulat Gazizullin, 200 new gas buses will be purchased this year. The bus fleet modification rate is 30%, he clarified.

Third LNG factory in Sviyazhsk for 28 billion

Small-scale LNG factories will become the resource base to expand the application of LNG in the republic. Gazprom LNG Technologies started to build the third LNG factory with a capacity of 7 tonnes per hour at the base, said Board Chairman of Gazprom LNG Technologies Alexey Kakhidze. It will be located in the Sviazhsk Multimodal Logistic Centre. First, its capacity will be 7 tonnes per hour, then after the expansion of the second and third stages, it will increase to 10 tonnes per hour.

Seemingly, the location was chosen taking bunkering into consideration. “This complex will be unique because both water transport can be filled and bunkering can be performed. This possibility is not available anywhere today, in any case in this region. LNG will be stored, filling stations for gas motor equipment will be placed there,” said Alexey Kakhidze.

The investments are assessed at about 28 billion rubles, delivery terms aren’t yet known. According to Kakhidze, the first stage will be delivered next year. Gazprom LNG Technologies plans to build up to 26 small-scale LNG factories in total from 2022 to 2024, their total capacity will reach about a million tonnes a year, Gazrom said earlier.

Luiza Ignatyeva