By Sarah Byrne

LIQUEFIED natural gas (LNG) is the way forward in fuelling mining vehicles, according to IntelliGas chairman Jim McDonald who spoke to an audience at the annual Australian Pipeline Gas Association (APGA) convention and exhibition in late-October.

However, in order for the gas industry to continue to thrive, Mr McDonald said APGA and other organisations such as APPEA must “do some work to re-position gas as a fuel of transition.”

A competitive gas market in Australia according to Mr McDonald, relies upon several factors including good regulations, community support, construction activity and gas becoming a transition fuel to a low carbon economy.

Mr McDonald said gas is no longer seen as clean, cheap or secure.

“Australia needs to know that gas has a future and with the right technology delivering its almost complete combustion, gas is part of the world solution for global warming and air quality in our cities.”

Using gas to displace liquid fuels in fixed and mobile applications was a key point Mr McDonald made in discussing how to ensure there is a positive future for Australia’s gas industry.

“There is no agreement that we should use gas wherever we can in substitution for liquid fuels.”

“We allow export of natural gas at wellhead netback prices of probably less than $6 per GJ whilst we import refined liquid fuels for use at prices in excess of three times that number, with a massive impact on the balance of trade,” he said.

Mr McDonald said IntelliGas is a start-up gas technology business that began as a developer of CNG fuel packs to provide gas as fuel for the heavy-duty interstate highway truck fleet of Eastern Australia.

“Over several years we patented and perfected high pressure CNG systems and processes to deliver CNG at pressures high enough to meet the injection pressure required by the only gas fuelled engine suitable for use in Australia’s heavy duty fleet, the 15 litre Westport GX HPDI truck engine.”

“We built 350 bar fuel packs, bought a number of Western Star prime movers fitted with the Westport GX engine, and trademarked 350 bar High Density Compressed Natural Gas as HDCNG.”

Mr McDonald said the company also has a HDCNG fuelled demonstration refuse truck in the Suez International fleet in Adelaide in conjunction with Dennis Eagle trucks.

IntelliGas built the world’s first 350 bar HDCNG re-fuelling station at Crestmead in Brisbane.

Last year, IntelliGas moved into engine development and has reported several positive outcomes from this work.

Mr McDonald said the most visible of these was on display to the mining industry at Morayfield Queensland in May when IntelliGas subsidiary, Mine Energy Solutions, a collaboration between IntelliGas and Sime Darby, owners of the Queensland/Northern Territory Caterpillar dealer, Hastings Deering, demonstrated a 789C mine truck fitted with a 3516B Caterpillar engine modified by IntelliGas to run on HDCNG.

“The truck performed flawlessly and when fully loaded with around 170 tonnes of soil was able to achieve diesel displacement levels up to 90 per cent in simulated mine operating conditions.”

Mine Energy Solutions is in discussions with a number of major mine owners and mine contractors with the objective of converting large fleets of mining equipment to dual fuel and arranging gas supply to their fleets, Mr McDonald said.

“The next few years will be critical to the future of gas as a domestic fuel.”

“And a number of questions arise from the position that natural gas finds itself in, and a number of issues need to be addressed for natural gas to retain its position as a major player in Australia’s energy mix,” Mr McDonald said.