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Interest grows in LPG centre of excellence

Cooking with gas: A VACC-led proposal to turn some of the workshops of the three remaining Australian car-makers into LPG conversion centres is gaining momentum.

Plan to convert imported cars to run on LPG gains momentum

25 Feb 2014

THE Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC) has made a pitch to the regional city of Geelong to consider turning some of the factories left vacant after Ford leaves into bulk LPG conversion centres.

But the organisation says any such plan would also require a campaign to inform the public on the realities of LPG, and to debunk some misconceptions about gas.

“We’ve got to change this view held by some people that the LPG tank in the boot is a bomb waiting to explode, and that it is slow to refuel and so on,” said VACC media and communications manager Murray Collins.

“We need to do something to change how the public views the fuel. There’s no silver bullet on how to do that, but there has to be something we can do to change things.”

The VACC, which represents about 5000 small- and mid-size businesses tied in with the car industry, visited Geelong yesterday in an attempt to gain support for converting imported vehicles to run on the fuel, creating about 500 jobs in the process.

According to the VACC’s plans, imported vehicles arriving on the docks could be fed into an LPG centre of excellence, where the latest technology developed locally could help provide some future fuel security for the nation.

Mr Collins told GoAuto that the meeting with City of Greater Geelong officials, and Victorian premier Denis Napthine, had proved fruitful.

“The idea is that we use the existing facilities here that Ford and Holden and Toyota have, and do all the research and development here for LPG that we can then export overseas,” Mr Collins said.

“It’s just a concept at the moment, but it’s our hope that we can take this to the next level with a bit more research into it,” he said.

Other challenges to be addressed include the sharp rise in LPG fuel prices that have eroded its advantage over petrol, and long-term contracts that will ship the lion’s share of Australia’s LPG production to overseas markets.

The VACC push for an LPG centre of excellence comes as the NRMA warns Australia will need to carefully manage the nation’s fuel reserves as our reliance on imported fuel grows.

The motoring interest group yesterday released the findings of its latest research into the long-term stability of Australian fuel supplies, with some dire warnings for consumers and government alike.

The Australia’s Liquid Fuel Security 2 report said the loss of Australia’s domestic fuel production industry would severely limit the amount of fuel the nation could store, and the nation’s petrol bowsers could run dry in as little as three weeks if shipping from Singapore – where we source most of our refined fuels – was interrupted by a war or similar.

“If a scenario such as a confrontation in the Asia-Pacific region were to eventuate, our liquid fuel supplies could be severely constrained. We do not have a viable contingency plan in place for this event.

“As the first Australia’s Liquid Fuel Security report highlights, if this happens then Australians will suffer food shortages, will not have adequate access to medical services or pharmaceutical supplies, will not be able to get to work and, if the problem lasts for more than a few weeks, many will no longer have work to go to. It is that serious.” The report goes on to say that reducing our fuel dependency – such as promoting more fuel-efficient vehicles such as electric cars and encouraging public transport – is part of a solution to secure dwindling fuel supplies.

Part of that security, it said, could come from Australia’s LPG reserves.

Meanwhile, industry lobby group Gas Energy Australia welcomed both the VACC’s push for converting more vehicles to LPG, as well as the NRMA’s suggestion that the gas could help to secure the nation’s future fuel needs.

It said a switch to using more LPG could cut Australia’s reliance on imported fuel by about 218 million litres a year.

“Transforming vehicles in Australia to run on LPG would not only create much-needed manufacturing jobs but would also increase the nation’s energy security,” Gas Energy Australia chief executive Mike Carmody said today.

“Using LPG in vehicles engineered in Australia meets the government’s need for job creation and energy security.

“More LPG cars on the road would also help to revitalise the LPG vehicle servicing and maintenance sector and hundreds of jobs currently on the line,” he said.

Mr Carmody said the plan to convert imported cars to LPG could add another 270,000 vehicles to Australia’s LPG vehicle fleet over seven years.

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