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IOC dispensers in Chennai by year-end — TN Govt drive to enforce norms for LPG as auto fuel

N. Ramakrishnan

CHENNAI, Sept. 3

EVEN as the State Transport Department has begun a crackdown on vehicles using LPG also as a fuel, especially the call taxis, steps are on to have at least a couple of LPG dispensing stations in Chennai before the year-end.

The Indian Oil Corporation has begun work on setting up these dispensing stations in some of its existing petrol filling stations, one of which is in Koyambedu.

An auto LPG dispensing station has to conform to strict safety guidelines set by the Oil Industry Safety Directorate as well as the Department of Explosives of the Government of India, according to sources.

The Department of Explosives has come out with detailed safety regulations on the use of LPG as fuel covering the dispensing stations, the type of cylinder to be used, and the components that come with the conversion kit. The regulations also cover the retro fitment of LPG cylinders in cases of cars that are already on the roads.

The guidelines to be followed by both the automobile manufacturers and in retro fitment have also been specified in the Central Motor Vehicles Rules.

According to sources in the State Transport Department, the vehicles that currently use LPG as fuel in the city do not conform to the safety specifications and hence the drive to prevent them from using LPG as fuel till the required infrastructure is in place.

For instance, the cylinder to be used for automobile LPG is different from that used for consumption in households. Also, the LPG cylinder used for domestic consumption has always to be placed in an upright position, while in an automobile the cylinder will be placed in a horizontal position. As it is, there are a number of establishments in Chennai offering gas conversion kits and fitting them in the cars.

The oil companies had also pointed out to the Transport Department that call taxi operators were using subsidised LPG for their vehicles and this needed to be stopped.

Following the action against them, the call taxi operators approached the Transport Department and pointed out that LPG as fuel was permitted and requested the Department to ensure that the necessary infrastructure was in place at the earliest, so that their operations would be viable.

At the meeting, the oil companies had reportedly assured that at least a couple of automobile LPG dispensing stations would be ready before the year-end. It must be pointed out here that the Indian Oil Corporation has introduced Autogas, the LPG fuel for vehicles, in Hyderabad and Bangalore, in the South. Autogas would be sold at a retail price of Rs 19.21 per litre in Hyderabad and Rs 17.85 in Bangalore.

Compared to petrol, the exhaust emission of LPG-driven vehicles has 75 per cent less carbon monoxide, 85 per cent less of hydrocarbons; 40 per cent less of nitrous oxide; and causes 87 per cent less ozone depletion, according to IOC.

Likewise, compared to diesel, LPG emissions contain 90 per cent less of particulate contamination, hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide and 50 per cent less of nitrous oxide.

LPG is also stated to be 84 per cent more fuel-efficient compared to petrol.

As per the guidelines specified by the Central Motor Vehicles Rules and that outlined by the Department of Explosives, manufacturers of gas conversion kits have to get their kits for various types of vehicles approved either by the Automobile Research Association of India (ARAI) or the Vehicle Research Development Establishment.

The retrofitted vehicles run on bi-fuel mode (that is both petrol/diesel and LPG) with a solenoid switch provided to change over to the preferred fuel.

The Department of Explosives has approved the indigenous auto LPG containers of at least four manufacturers, besides permitting the import of LPG auto containers manufactured by Stako of Poland.

The department has also permitted import of multi-function valves manufactured by Lovato Spa, Tomasetto S.r.l., Emer S.r.l., and MTM S.r.l., all of Italy.

The Central Motor Vehicles Rules says that the type approval of LPG kits for retro fitment will be valid for three years.

The retro fitment will also have to be carried out by workshops authorised by the kit manufacturers or vehicle manufacturers.

This has been done to ensure safety and fix responsibility in the case of an accident, according to official sources.

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