A recent meeting of Gazprom’s Board of Directors addressed development of the Russian domestic market for natural gas vehicles (NGVs), assigning the company’s Management Committee to work with Russian authorities to expand the use of natural gas as a motor fuel in Russia. One of Gazprom’s main objectives in the domestic market is to considerably expand the NGV fuel business.
Russia’s fleet of natural gas-powered vehicles numbers approximately 86,000. This is a small share of the 15 million natural gas vehicles estimated worldwide, but is comparable to those European countries visited on the 2012 Blue Corridor NGV Rally tour: Germany has 96,000, France 13,000 and Poland 2,100.
In addition, Russia currently has 243 compressed natural gas (CNG) filling stations operating across 59 regions, 208 of which are owned by Gazprom. Russian CNG filling stations sold 361.6 mcm of CNG in 2011, which is 16.6 mcm more than in 2010, but still only 18% of the stations’ design capacity.
Some regions have been early leaders in the adoption of natural gas as a motor fuel, with just eight of Russia’s 82 regions together accounting for more than half of total CNG sales in Russia. The conversion of motor vehicles from gasoline to natural gas is especially relevant in big cities where a fair share of pollution is due to motor vehicles, as natural gas allows for decreasing emissions fivefold on average. At the end of 2011, the most developed regional markets were the Stavropol and Krasnodar territories; the Sverdlovsk, Rostov, Chelyabinsk and Tula regions; the Republic of Bashkortostan and the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic, all located in Russia’s south and central (Ural) areas.
To further promote the use of natural gas as a motor fuel, Gazprom has entered into cooperation agreements with additional regions: Kaluga, Orel, Nizhny Novgorod and Tambov. Gas filling capacities are currently being expanded in Eastern Siberia and the Far East, with CNG filling stations soon to be built in Khaborovsk, Blagoveshchensk, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and Vladivostok. Gazprom has also moved to build a special section on converting motor transport to gas into the Russian Regions Gasification Program beginning in 2013.
Regional regulatory acts aimed at developing CNG markets have been adopted in Moscow, the Stavropol territory, the Sverdlovsk, Tambov, Kaluga and Saratov regions and the Republic of Tatarstan. At the same time – and echoing a theme heard in many countries during the Blue Corridor Rally tour – the absence of a federal law to support the conversion of motor transport to natural gas is one of the main challenges to developing the domestic NGV fuel market in Russia.
A multi-stakeholder meeting on NGV fuel hosted by Gazprom in July brought together Russian government representatives, leading oil companies and large producers of automotive equipment. The discussions emphasized the necessity of a special legal basis from which to grow the market for NGVs and called for a government role in coordinating the conversion of motor vehicles to gas.
Gazprom has since addressed a proposal to the President of the Russian Federation to entrust the relevant ministries with preparing a draft document elaborating specific measures of government support. This draft is currently being developed by the government in accordance with the President’s order.