Curbs sought on drivers using cheap LPG fuel

The Energy Ministry has asked the Transport Ministry to limit the number of vehicles using liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as fuel to help reduce its use in the transport sector.

The fuel, the same type as cooking gas, is not intended for use in transport, but many drivers have modified their vehicles to take advantage of a subsidy intended for household use.

Widespread use of the gas in transport has widened the losses shouldered by PTT, the importer of the gas.

Energy Minister Pongsak Raktapongpaisarn yesterday expressed hope that LPG-compatible vehicles would be slowly phased out once a network of compressed natural gas (CNG) stations is expanded to cover most of the country in the next several years.

LPG consumed in the transport sector currently accounts for 14.6% of the gas used in Thailand, amounting to 606,000 tonnes last year. A huge LPG subsidy by the state-owned Oil Fund has driven LPG consumption to rise by 15-18% annually over the past several years.

The number of LPG vehicles has also grown sharply, from 70,000 units a decade ago to over 1 million as of last year.

Mr Pongsak said the ministry would talk to PTT about adding CNG stations to ease the shift from LPG to CNG. It also wants to work with related agencies to reduce new LPG vehicle registrations.

The plan will be carried out alongside the government's move to let LPG prices float.

There are 483 CNG stations nationwide serving 380,000 CNG vehicles.

Phasin Sophonkunkit, managing director of the Nikom 2 Enterprise that runs LPG stations in Saraburi, predicts that the plan will take more than a decade to fulfil, as new LPG cars and stations have continued to increase and it takes time to break even.

His company, for instance, began the LPG station business only three years ago with a 10-million-baht investment.

Mr Phasin said the plan should be gradually put in place to avoid conflicts with the public.

Chisanupong Rungrojngamcharoen, president of the LPG Traders Association, said LPG should remain an option for motorists as the government promotes the use of CNG. He agreed that LPG prices should float to reflect real costs, while adding that good management is required for direct subsidy programmes to low-income households.

About the author

Writer: Yuthana Praiwan
Position: Business Reporter