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Singapore's first public CNG station to be ready by Jan 2008

By Daryl Loo, Channel NewsAsia
12 July 2007

SINGAPORE: Singapore's first-ever publicly-accessible refuelling station for compressed natural gas (CNG) is expected to start running by next January.

CNG is seen as a cleaner and cheaper alternative to petrol as it produces very little pollutants and costs about 50% less.

The station will be built and operated by Smart Automobile, which also runs Singapore's first and largest fleet of CNG taxis.

Smart Automobile expects to charge about 75 cents per litre for CNG, much cheaper than petrol, which costs from $1.60 per litre.

The new CNG refuelling station will sit on a 55,000-square-foot site on Mandai Road, just off the Woodlands Road junction.

Smart Automobile has obtained a 30-year lease to build the station, which will serve all CNG-fuelled vehicles here.

The company hopes to have four more stations by 2011, including one in Serangoon North - to be up and running by next September.

Smart Automobile says it is still awaiting regulatory approval for the second station.

All its CNG stations will operate under the name Smart Energy.

Johnny Harjantho, Managing Director of Smart Automobile, said: "We project that by the time the five CNG stations are up, there will be about 3,000 to 4,000 CNG taxis of our own, and from the public side - commercial and private cars - we estimate that there are going to be about 10,000 cars available on the road.

"If you ask me: is that number exaggerated? I think it is not. It's a chicken and egg situation. If you build more stations, then we believe more people will convert their cars, or buy the OEM CNG cars in Singapore."

There are 400 CNG vehicles on the road here, and these currently need special permission to refuel at Singapore's sole CNG station on Jurong Island.

Once the Mandai station is ready, however, refuelling on Jurong Island will no longer be allowed.

Smart Automobile estimates that the first station will cost $8 million to build, and subsequent stations about $7 million each.

To take advantage of the lower cost of refuelling, Smart Automobile intends to replace its remaining fleet of 550 diesel-run taxis with CNG cabs over the next four years.

Mr Harjantho said: "Currently, we have about 110 CNG taxis, which is about 10-15% of our entire fleet. But going forward, we are going to change all of our taxis to run on CNG.

"Green environment is the 'in' thing. Everyone's talking about being environmentally-friendly. So why not run a CNG fleet. The cost is cheaper, and also it does not pollute so much. The whole world is going in that direction."

Other countries with CNG stations include Australia, China and South Korea. - CNA/ir

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