As energy prices rise and Mexico’s pollution problems worsen, natural gas offers the most affordable and realistic solution to cost and environmental concerns, according to the final panel at Mexico Oil & Gas Summit 2019 on Thursday in Mexico City, moderated by Ángel Sánchez, Business Director Performance Chemicals at BAS.
David Madero, Director of Energy Solutions at Acclaim, began the proceedings by highlighting the growing demand for natural gas as an energy source in Mexican homes. Although current residential use is low, homeowners are making substantial savings by switching to natural gas, he said. “Savings of 40 and 50 percent are common,” said Madero.
Residential energy is not the only area in which natual gas presents savings for users. Luis Felipe Echavarría, Director General of natural gas station company Enco GNV, said that drivers can save 50 percent on every kilometer driven by switching to natural gas. However, he emphasized that the penetration of natural gas into the Mexican market is still very small, with only 38,000 of the 43.7 million vehicles on Mexico’s roads running on natural gas. Additionally, there are only 38 natural gas stations in the country. But, said Echavarría, the time for expanding natural gas use is now. “Natural gas use is growing across Latin America. Natural gas could foster the renovation of the national vehicle park and could reduce CO2 emissions from cars by 70 percent,” he said.
While critics of natural gas point to electric cars as a more environmentally-friendly alternative, the panel said that these vehicles are too expensive, and the infrastructure too poor, to be a pragmatic choice at present. Natural gas, via the national pipeline system, provides the best way to move cleaner fuels around the country, they said.
Vernon Murray, President Latin America of Emerson Automation Solutions, agreed. “Natural gas is today’s fuel to help us arrive to tomorrow,” he said. Murray underlined that the advances in technology in the last 20 years, including the arrival of ERP packages and wireless technology, have helped dramatically improve pipeline security and maintenance techniques. “Today these packets have the capabilities to manage most processes within a pipeline. Security has been dramatically improved and we can now visualize where leaks are occurring,” he said.
Jan Frowijn, Vice President USA, Mexico and Central America of ROSEN Group Mexico, added that safety was another positive factor. “Pipelines are the most practical way of transporting fuels over a long distance, and in general, an incredibly safe transport method,” he said. Frowijn also suggested that it is vital that Mexico makes use of its experienced workforce and those coming through the ranks, who bring technological expertise, like data analytics. While he agreed with Murray’s suggestion that preventative maintenance was critical for keeping Mexico’s legacy network functioning, he said that the application of technologies would provide the country with “predictive solutions” that would further drive maintenance costs down.
According to José García Sanleandro, Vice President of the Mexican Natural Gas Association, concerns that some natural gas critics have of the potential reliance on importing from the US were unfounded. Rather, the country’s proximity to its northern neighbor is beneficial. “Mexico must take advantage of the opportunity of being neighbor to the market with the cheapest natural gas in the world,” he said.