Making CNG an accessible and affordable fuel NGC CNG Trinidad Sheldon Sylvester_social media copy

The volume of methane we could obtain from Trinidad's landfills may exceed current CNG demand.


Making CNG an accessible and affordable fuel

June 16, 2023

Sheldon Sylvester, acting president of NGC CNG Company Limited, talks to The Energy Year about how the company is making CNG an accessible and affordable vehicular fuel option in Trinidad and Tobago. A subsidiary of The National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (NGC), NGC CNG is mandated by the government to accelerate and expand the use of CNG as an alternative transportation fuel in the country.

What portion of the country’s natural gas supply would NGC CNG require to sustain the availability of CNG on the market?
The usage of natural gas by the CNG programme is very small. We’re not talking about supply to petrochemical plants; we’re talking about vehicles. Currently, the volume we use is 1.8 mcf [around 51,000 cubic metres] per day. That is a tiny fraction compared to 2.8 bcf [79.3 mcm] that Trinidad and Tobago produces daily. We are also exploring sustainability on our side by exploring what alternative sources of gas can be utilised for CNG that are not necessarily coming from the natural gas supply obtained by NGC.
We have partnered with SWMCOL, a local solid waste management company that operates three landfills. The partnership is between ourselves, SWMCOL, NGC and UTT [University of Trinidad and Tobago]. The intent is to determine if there is an opportunity to use gas naturally produced from decomposing waste at the landfills as an alternative source to feed the production of CNG. Granted, it will not be a large gas volume; this supply is expected to closely align to the demand for CNG in the vehicular market.

What is the viability of capturing and marketing methane produced from the country’s landfills?
We have completed a pre-feasibility study which confirmed that a gas supply is possible. In fact, the volume of methane we could obtain from the landfills may exceed current CNG demand. The economics of the project and partnership will have to be assessed for the benefit of all parties involved. For SWMCOL, it can become an additional source of revenue, and for NGC CNG it brings the excitement of being able to sustainably source fuel from a landfill.
We are moving to the feasibility study next, where there is an opportunity for us to access the country’s Green Fund resources as a project funding mechanism. The feasibility study is expected to commence in 2023 and would involve selecting the most appropriate methodology to collect landfill gas emissions over an extended period of time that covers both the dry and wet seasons on the island.


Tell us about the financial dynamics that have helped to develop the CNG market in Trinidad.
Since 2014, we have built the infrastructure and operated the business from approximately TTD 250 million [USD 36.9 million] of funding that was provided by our parent company, NGC. That funding includes installing CNG infrastructure in existing fuel stations, construction within new fuel stations and supporting CNG vehicle conversions in the market.
We have developed partnerships with companies that perform the installations and conversions on the vehicles. The cost of conversion can average around USD 2,000. To assist our target market with the cost of conversions, we have also partnered with financial institutions to offer low cost financing options.
We do a significant amount of top-level advertising in the market that is supported by the significant savings derived by using CNG as opposed to gasoline. Our marketing strategy also includes brand endorsements from persons who have converted to CNG and sharing the benefits of conversion with the public. CNG cost per litre equivalent is approximately 77-86% more affordable across the spectrum of liquid fuel prices.

Is there an opportunity to implement CNG conversion in the commercial sector?
There are opportunities in the transportation sector to convert fleets of medium-sized and large commercial vehicles to CNG. We are in discussion with different parties in the sector to determine the economics, and how best we can facilitate it. As with the non-commercial market, the main challenge remains ensuring convenience in the location of a CNG supply.

What steps have you taken to ensure the accessibility of CNG for those who convert?
Currently, there are 21 service stations with CNG infrastructure around the country. Fourteen of those are active and at least three others will be up and running in 2023. The existing infrastructure is sufficient in terms of volume demand, but some work is still needed to ensure supply parity at all geographic locations. Some of the remote areas, like the southern part of the island, have been underserved, and we’re progressing to remedy that.
For the southeast parts of the island, where there’s no gas pipeline infrastructure to support a CNG supply, we’re looking at the possibility of having mobile units set up to have a CNG supply trucked in. A final decision will be made once the economics of the investment have been assessed.

How do you view the government’s participation in implementing sustainable solutions in the transportation sector?
The government has always advocated sustainable solutions in the transportation sector and was instrumental in the development of the CNG industry in Trinidad and Tobago. This support has now expanded to include electric vehicle options. The State has implemented favourable fiscal measures for the purchase of electric and hybrid vehicles and is committed to the development of the required public infrastructure to support this initiative. The State’s policy on sustainable solutions in the transportation sector is to be rolled out in the coming years and is to be aligned to its unconditional Nationally Determined Contribution (“NDC”) commitment to reduce its public transportation emissions by 30% or 1.7 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide compared to 2013 levels by December 31, 2030.
The PTSC – the Public Transport Service Corporation – has one of the largest CNG facilities, which we installed for their CNG buses and was opened in April 2022. The PTSC also has a mandate to operate electric buses in the future and would have two alternative fuel options.
In the domestic sector, individuals retain their vehicles for an extended time and many may not have the will or the financial standing to purchase an electric vehicle. We therefore believe that even with the shift to include electric vehicles as a fuel option, Trinidad and Tobago would remain a strong and vibrant market for CNG conversions.

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