Monday, 11 June 2012, 08:02 GMT
Rising petrol prices spur drivers to switch their cars to LPG

A taxi driver fills in his car with LPG at the Mantkawa station in Erbil, /GLOBE PHOTO/Zakariya Muhammed

The Kurdish Globe

LPG conversion results in a bi-fuel capability- a car that can run on either LPG or petrol.

A combination of low quality and high prices of petrol in Kurdistan over the past few years has increased demand for cars running on alternate fuel. As a result, more and more people in the city of Erbil are switching their cars to liquid propane gas (LPG).

LPG conversion results in a bi-fuel capability- a car that can run on either LPG or petrol. A second independent fuel system is added to the car for which a dedicated tank is needed. The tank is usually fitted in the spare wheel compartment but can also be installed underneath the car. As with petrol and diesel, liquid LPG is purchased by the liter and pumped into the tank via a hose-pipe and filling point. It becomes a gas just before entering the combustion cylinder.

"I know a lot of local drivers who suffer from low quality of petrol or are hit hard by petrol prices climbing toward 1000 Iraqi dinars per liter," says Muhammad Othman, manager of Gasco Company, part of the Diyar Group Companies in Erbil. "Gasco changed the way that people think by using LPG instead of standard fuel for vehicles. Gasco converted the first car on 14th April 2010, but now thousands of vehicles are converted, and hundreds more drivers are choosing to convert their cars to LPG on a daily basis. It's a real success,"

Besides the economic benefits, running on LPG is believed to reduce the carbon footprint on average by 20% compared with petrol. Clean and efficient combustion means that LPG vehicles also produce fewer harmful pollutants and less noise.

According to Othman, the conversion can be completed in a few days, and although the initial outlay of approximately $850 is somewhat steep, the ultimate savings in fuel expenses and vehicle maintenance make the switch worthwhile.

There is a common conception amongst some people that LPG is dangerous especially during car accidents, leading many to stick with petrol.

"I heard LPG is less expensive than petrol and has less effect on car engine, but I still prefer petrol. The reason why I stay with petrol is that some people say LPG is not safe for cars."

But Gasco Company manger Othman thinks LPG has an excellent safety record as the fuel tank is usually much stronger than conventional ones, and has been proven to maintain its integrity in both fire and crash tests.

Othman believes that there are many drivers who lack the understanding and knowledge about the running of the system; some even wonder what to do if they run out of LPG.

In case of running out of LPG, Othman explained that the system would automatically revert back to using petrol, and once refilled will then return to running on LPG. During the installation process, a special switch/indicator is fitted onto the dashboard indicating the amount of fuel left in the tank.

Dashti Abdullah, a taxi driver who converted his car to LPG over two years ago, said "I am really satisfied with the system which has many benefits. I pay 350 IDs a liter for propane, which is cheap compared petrol. Propane never hurts the engine but bad quality petrol always negatively affects the engine. Since I converted my car, I have saved a lot of money."

Salam Burhan is another driver who converted his car to LPG a few weeks ago. He said "I like everything about LPG conversion but the only problem I usually face is there are only two stations in Erbil city where I can fill in my car. I hope they open more stations as soon as they can."

Currently, there are two gas stations in Erbil, Shorsh Station and Mantkawa Station, but the company plans to open other stations in the future.