Scripting a new chapter in the country’s transport sector which moves towards clean fuel, India’s first liquefied natural gas-driven bus was launched in Kerala. Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan jointly flagged off the first pilot run of the eco-friendly bus on the sidelines of the fourth meeting of the Group of Ministers, set up by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, here.
“Along with Hon’able CM of Kerala, flagged off India’s first ever LNG fuel bus for the test run today at Thiruvanthapuram,” Pradhan later tweeted.
The LNG-driven bus was rolled out as part of the Centre’s plans to use LNG, considered to be a cleaner and safer fuel which emits 50 per cent less carbon, for mass transportation. It has been a joint effort of Petronet LNG Limited (PLL), Indian Oil Corporation Ltd and Tata Motors Ltd to introduce LNG as a fuel in commercial vehicles in the state capital.
As it is a pilot project, the LNG-driven bus will run on a trial basis before it can be certified for commercial application. Speaking on the occasion, Pradhan said the launch of the LNG bus heralds the start of eco-friendly long-haul commercial vehicles in the country. Applauding the Kerala government for taking the lead in adopting LNG, which is greener and more economical compared to diesel for public transportation, he said the state has an important role to play in developing the hydrocarbon sector.
The LNG pipeline was one the major topics of discussion between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pinarayi Vijayan during the latter’s first New Delhi visit after taking charge as Kerala Chief Minister, the minister said. After the meeting, the Prime Minister had asked him to coordinate things in this regard and Kerala CM had assured all help to complete laying of GAIL pipeline in Kochi-Mangaluru stretch, Pradhan said.
Kerala’s decision to roll out more LNG and CNG buses would contribute to realise Modi’s vision of ‘Climate Justice’, he said.
Pointing out that Kerala had a very important role to play in developing the Hydrocarbon sector, he said besides the refinery expansion project at Kochi, two other projects- LPG import terminal at Kochi and a POL terminal at Payyannur- are also being implemented.
These projects would give a boost to the petroleum sector in the state economy. There are nine terminals/ depots, seven LPG bottling plants and eight aviation fuel stations in the state to meet the growing demand of petroleum products. On Kerala’s natural gas expansion plans, Pradhan said IOC planned to set up five CNG stations at Ernakulum by March 2017 and would provide Piped Natural Gas to 4000 households.
The PNG connections would increase to 41,000 by 2020. The company has also finalised an arrangement with Kerala State Road Transport Corporation to set up an integrated fuel complex at its various depots in the state having provision to dispense different fuels, including LNG and CNG to vehicles, he said.
In his inaugural address, the Chief Minister said the LDF government planned to convert all KSRTC buses to CNG fuel driven ones in the next five years. There were also plans to modernise check posts to ensure unhindered flow of inter-state vehicles, he said.
An electric bus, solar powered-auto rickshaw and an electric rickshaw were also flagged off on the sidelines of the function. Later, in a meeting with the Kerala Chief Minister, Pradhan sought assistance for the development of petroleum sector in the state. He asked to provide necessary assistance to GAIL, which would expedite the laying of Kochi-Koottanad-Bengaluru/Mangaluru pipeline.
The union minister requested the state government to complete the survey and panchnama works for acquisition of RoU project works and also provide support to start the construction work.
He suggested instituting a joint mechanism to monitor the monthly progress of the project. Pradhan also requested the LDF government to withdraw the recently introduced VAT on LNG.
He emphasised that the natural gas industry is still in its nascent stage and needs government’s support for its development and stressed the need for joint mechanism to promote the gas-based industry. The discussion also covered issues related to oil sector such as feasibility of gas operated BSES power plant, and laying of pipeline from Kochi refinery to Palghat.
Pradhan also expressed concern over frequent strikes by crews of dealers and transporters over issues in the transportation tender by IOC, which is affecting normal operation of oil companies and may result in adverse impact on movement of petroleum product in the states.
He asked the officers of ministry of petroleum and state government to jointly address the issue at the earliest. During the discussion, Vijayan requested the Centre to make available the kerosene to fishermen. In this regard, Pradhan asked the state to identify the eligible beneficiaries and digitised the data.