The future of LPG on the forecourt of Australia’s service stations is a discussion that the industry needs to have – before it risks shooting itself in the foot.

This is the view of ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie who says a perfect storm of government policy, manufacturing downturns and the increase in sales of diesel-run commercial vehicles has led to some independent operators choosing to remove LPG tanks during forecourt restoration or refurbishment works.

“With Holden and Ford closing their Australian operations in the near future, locally produced new LPG vehicles are soon to be unavailable to the Australian market unless an international car maker steps up to the plate. This factor, coupled with the recent removal of government subsidies for LPG conversions and widespread use of diesel in the light commercial vehicle fleet, raises key questions about the future of the AutoGas industry in Australia,” Mark said.

“As it stands, approximately 60 per cent of Australia’s service stations sell LPG with an increasing number of operators reportedly questioning whether they should maintain this infrastructure into the future,” he said.

Declining demand means LPG pumps are generally underutilised and service station operators are understandably asking themselves whether they should keep this infrastructure in the future.
This all leads to a central question: Does LPG have a future in the petrol station forecourts of Australia?

Cameron Ure from Unigas says it does.

“AutoGas has major benefits in five key areas: price, performance, locally produced, widespread availability and improved emissions,” he said.
Given recent publicity about Australia’s fuel security, it is important to note that the country is LPG self-sufficient. In fact, Australian is a net exporter of LPG. This means that, should Australia’s international petrol supplies be interrupted in the future, LPG vehicles will still be on the move.

“Not only that, LPG is 50 per cent cheaper than petrol and modern AutoGas vehicles can emit up to 15% less CO2 than their petrol equivalents,” Cameron said, citing independent evaluations.
“For those worried about performance, modern AutoGas cars have power and torque characteristics that are similar or better than petrol”, he said.

Unigas is currently investigating the potential for AutoGas in the heavy vehicle market where the alternatives to traditional fuels are more constrained than for light vehicles – and Unigas believes the outlook for increased use of LPG in the near term is bright.

Steven Cardinale of the New Sunrise Group, however, suggests that the future is likely to be dominated by new technologies – not the old ones.

He refers to Tesla Motors, named after electrical engineer and physicist Nikolai Tesla. According to Wikipedia, the company has grown from 3000 employees in 2012 to 6000 last year.

The Tesla Roadster was the world’s the first fully-electric sports car. Sales of the company’s Model S – a fully-electric luxury sedan – passed 75,000 units in June 2015.

Steven sees the growth in demand for Tesla vehicles, as well as increased production and sales of hybrid vehicles as an indication that the fuel station of the future may be more like a battery charging facility.

Mark McKenzie sums it all up by suggesting that the future is likely to comprise a mix of different fuels and technologies.

“It is likely that the future vehicle fleet will comprise traditionally fuelled vehicles, gas and electric vehicles. Our industry therefore has to prepare for such a scenario and removal of LPG infrastructure at this time could be a touch premature”, said Mark.

The issue will be debated at the 2015 ACAPMA National Conference & Expo, where Mark and Steven will be highlighting the arguments “against” growth of the LPG market, while Endeavour Petroleum’s Jeff Griffiths will join Cameron on the “for” bench.

The Great Gas Debate will canvas the topic in a lively and humorous forum, which promises to engage and entertain.

The 2015 ACAPMA National Conference and Expo will be held from September 22-25 at the Marriot Resort and Spa, Surfers Paradise.

For more information or to register as a delegate, please go to the dedicated conference website.