Perth company secures LNG bus trial deal in India

By: Graham Gardiner

Eden, a wholly owned subsidiary of Perth-based Eden Energy, has entered into a cooperation agreement with GAIL (India) and Mahanagar

Eden, a wholly owned subsidiary of Perth-based Eden Energy, has entered into a cooperation agreement with GAIL (India) and Mahanagar Gas (MGL) to demonstrate the efficiency of Hythane as a high-efficiency, ultra-low-emission premium blend of natural gas with the major Mumbai bus company, which is a customer of MGL.

GAIL, otherwise known as Gas Authority of India, is the largest distributor of natural gas in India.

MGL is a joint venture owned by GAIL, BG Group and the Government of Maharashtra, which owns and operates pipelines and markets natural gas in and around the Mumbai area to a broad commercial, domestic and industrial customer base of more than 25 million people.

The demonstration project in Mumbai will involve Eden establishing a Hythane refuelling station at a suitable bus depot to fuel buses, progressively increasing to 50-70 buses.

The bus depot in Mumbai is operated by BEST, the state-owned Mumbai bus operator that operates more than 4,000 buses, half of which are already using natural gas and all of which are planned to be operating on natural gas within the next three years. MGL supplies BEST with all its natural gas requirements.

Upon successful completion of the demonstration project the parties will endeavour to negotiate a commercial agreement for the ongoing promotion and marketing of Hythane by MGL in its area of operation.

Under the terms of the agreement Eden will supply the Hythane refuelling station including an auto-thermal reformer to produce the necessary hydrogen from natural gas, compression, blending, storage and dispensing equipment.

Eden will also be responsible for the installation, operation, maintenance, supervision and safety of the equipment and will retain ownership of the equipment. Eden will provide training to MGL personnel to enable them to operate the equipment.

GAIL will work with Eden and MGL and will support the demonstration project and assist in arranging all Hythane standards and regulations and statutory clearances required for the project. MGL will provide all necessary site works for the installation of the equipment, and will provide all natural gas, water and electricity required for the project.

Planning approvals and installation of the equipment will take around nine months and it is planned to then run the buses for a further six months.

On completion of the demonstration project, Eden will compile a comprehensive report on the outcome and, subject to suitable results, the parties propose to negotiate the possible ongoing commercial terms for the promotion and marketing of Hythane by MGL in its areas of operation, including the possible right for MGL to exclusively market Hythane in Mumbai and other areas where MGL has operations.

Eden has been working in India for the past five years promoting and developing Hythane as a premium blend of natural gas. Currently regulations for each of Hythane-fuelled motor vehicles and Hythane refuelling stations are in the process of being implemented.

The Indian Government in 2005 adopted a national hydrogen road map embracing hydrogen-enriched natural gas as the proposed transitional step towards a hydrogen-based economy, and recently adopted a national standard of 18 percent hydrogen (by volume) in natural gas as its proposed HCNG standard.

While this is slightly less than the 20 percent hydrogen mixture which Eden recommends for heavy-duty vehicles, 18 percent hydrogen is a good working compromise which is highly suitable for smaller vehicles while at the same still producing very significant benefits in larger heavy-duty engines for buses and trucks.

It is proposed that, wherever possible, all of the equipment for the demonstration project will be supplied by Indian manufacturers.

Eden has already completed the development for Ashok Leyland of a Hythane bus engine which is suitable for the demonstration project, and a second engine project is also planned. Ashok Leyland supplies a majority of Indian Government-owned bus fleets.

This demonstration will provide a strong base from which Eden proposes to develop and promote a broad-based commercial Hythane market across India as natural gas is rolled-out as a national vehicle fuel during the next few years.

India has significant quantities of domestic natural gas and commenced large-scale production of natural gas from the KG Basin in April 2009. Several new pipelines have since been added to the national pipeline grid, opening up the availability of large quantities of clean, cheap natural gas which is now being embraced across India as a major transport fuel.

This cooperation agreement is seen as a major milestone not only in Eden’s promotion of Hythane in India, but also in India’s progress towards achieving its national hydrogen roadmap goals of having 20 percent of all vehicles operating on a hydrogen-based fuel by 2020, and of having all vehicles operate on hydrogen by 2050.

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