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Natural Gas to Power Russian Buses

Published: May 22, 2013 (Issue # 1760)


ST. PETERSBURG (SPB) Among talk of the problem of unpaid gas bills and the possibility of opening a St. Petersburg Gas Museum, participants at last weeks St. Petersburg International Gas Forum broached an issue of rare environmental significance the use of natural gas to power Russias buses, instead of gasoline.

Sponsored by Gazprom, the event, held, according to its website, with the goal of supporting Russias status as a leading player in the gas industry and a reliable partner, served as a platform where energy-related issues could be discussed, new industry-related technologies exhibited, and strategic plans presented.

On Monday May 13, Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev signed a resolution stating that 50 percent of Russias public buses will be fueled by natural gas. Compressed natural gas (CNG) is widely considered a more environmentally friendly and cheaper alternative to gasoline or diesel.

Currently, there are 300,000 to 350,000 registered buses and vans operating on a regular basis in Russia, and only 86,000 of these are CNG-fueled, Kommersant reports. China, by comparison, has nearly 1.5 million vehicles using natural gas for fuel. Russias number would have to double for Medvedevs resolution to be fulfilled.

President Putin supported the resolution at a meeting, stating, [natural] gas is cheaper than gasoline or diesel; Besides, it reduces emissions. Putin added that switching to natural gas would cut greenhouse gases two to three times, and that Russias position as the worlds most natural gas-endowed country provides a clear competitive advantage.

The resolution also came as a welcome development for the Russian gas giant Gazprom, because it assures the company a new, albeit small, market for its gas. According to Kommersant, if the CNG-fueled bus fleet were doubled, then an estimated additional 1 billion cubic meters of gas per year would be supplied to the domestic market. This number is, however, relatively insignificant when compared to the roughly 460 billion cubic meters of gas annually consumed in Russia.

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller spoke about the implications of the initiative for St. Petersburg. The environmental situation in the city will improve and additional funds will be freed up for other needs.

The lack of adequate infrastructure, seen as the main hindrance to the governments 50 percent goal, was also discussed at the forum. Spokesperson for Gazprom subsidiary Gazprom Germania, Alexander Lukin, informed participants that while Germany has about 900 CNG fueling depots, Russia houses only around 250, about 200 of which are owned by Gazprom.

Miller called St. Petersburg a strategic center for the gas industry due to its proximity to the Nord Stream Pipeline and to the route of the proposed Yamal-Europe 2 Pipeline.

The idea of increasing the use of natural gas as a motor fuel is not new and has been gaining momentum in Russia in recent times. On December 24 of last year, Miller was present at the opening of St. Petersburgs first multi-fuel filling station, on Pulkovskoye Shosse near Pulkovo airport. Plans are underway to construct six more such depots along the M-10 route between St. Petersburg to Moscow.

Lack of infrastructure is not the resolutions only obstacle: Safety is also a concern. On Victory Day in Moscow, an empty CNG-powered bus blew up following the explosion of one of its cylinders. Russia has no regulatory framework for its CNG-fueled vehicles, according to Energy Minister Alexander Novak.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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