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Middle East May Have 1 Million Natural Gas Vehicles by 2010

Despite being home to 65% of the world’s oil reserves, pressure to improve air quality and maximize crude oil revenues is driving Middle Eastern governments to implement alternative fuel schemes that dwarf many of those in oil-dependent nations.

Government and private organizations in Egypt, Iran, United Arab Emirates and other oil-rich nations are implementing programs designed to reduce consumption of gasoline and diesel with natural gas vehicles. As many as one million natural gas-powered cars, trucks and buses could be plying Middle Eastern roads by the end of this decade, according to the International Association for Natural Gas Vehicles.

Eqypt already has 70,000 natural gas vehicles in operation, aiming for a target of 145,000 by 2010, while Iran, with 140,000 natural gas vehicles, is well on its way to achieving a 2010 target of 600,000 vehicles including 20,000 buses at the rate of more than 12,000 vehicles per month. Other nations in the area have also begun implementing natural gas vehicles, with several compressed natural gas (CNG) opening in the United Arab Emirates within the past year. Government officials have targeted 10,000 vehicles in Abu Dhabi alone.

Neighbouring Pakistan already has more than 1 million natural gas vehicles in operation. More than five million natural gas vehicles currently on the road worldwide. Increasing numbers in Europe, North & South America and Asia are expected to raise this to more than fifty million by 2020, according to the Association.



We need more LNG terminals in the US, so the price of natgas could drop to a lower level.


LNG is very expensive. When you cosider the captial costs, I am not sure it will lower the price of NG. I think it will raise the cost, but make it a bit more available.

Rafael Seidl

Considering the vast amounts of natural gas still flared in certain Persian Gulf countries, switching to CNG vehicles and gas-fired electricity co-gen seems like a no-brainer.

Incidentally, this would improve local air quality (cp. to diesels & oil-firing) and, sharply reduce aggregate CO2 emissions. Note that the Kyoto Protocol permits signatories to count investments in CO2 mitigation overseas toward their own national targets.

Unfortunately, gasoline tends to be very heavily subsidized in oil-producing countries in order to placate the masses. Moreover, Iraq is a civil war zone and Iran a suspected nuclear renegade, prompting the US to restrict exports of dual-use technologies vital to modernizing these countries' civilian energy infrastructure. Note that both Egypt and Pakistan have some natural gas but not much oil of their own.

Consumers currently have little incentive to switch to a fuel that tends to reduce specific power, operating range and available cargo rating. Regional technical standards for fuel composition, pressure level at the pump, crash safety and emissions would create a more unified market for carmakers to address.

Russia, the biggest gas flarer of all, represents another obvious market for CNG vehicles.

Max Reid

Smart Move : By moving vehicles from Oil to CNG they could save Oil and export it.

Iran already has 148,000 CNG vehicles which is more than US at 130,000, so they should be able to develop technology on their own or borrow from Pakistan which has 1,000,000 vehicles.

All these developments are happening without any big initiative from companies like GM, Toyota, Ford, Daimler in CNG area.

This is more a decentralized development which is good for everyone.

Also the flaring can be reduced if they start using it.

ken Johnstone

This something that should have been done decades ago. Even if a gas canister on a vehicle only had a range of twenty or thirty miles, we could restrict the use of liquid fuels for longer trips and make a big dent in the amount of fuel needed. Once again, the improvemanet in air quality should be the main incentive.


Heck, with high commodity prices, they should leverage their abundant natl gas reserves. Aluminum, steel, and other metals all use electricity, and heat that natl gas can provide. If you can't burn it as fuel for cars, or for LNG export, then invest all that petrocash in aluminum, steel, and other metal producing plants. They already have huge plastic and petrochemical facilities. This would provide jobs for the masses, and balance/diversify their economies.


They definitely “should”. But do not forget that you are talking about countries with medieval state of social structure and associated economical infrastructure. Iran, for example, imports 70% of its gasoline and have 30% unemployment rate. Saudi Arabia has one tenth of US GDP per person, notwithstanding their stable political regime and huge oil revenues.

Rafael Seidl

Western corporations are very reluctant to make major capital investments in most Arab countries, because of the risk of extortion/nationalization and violent acts of sabotage/kidnapping/murder by local extremists.

Extortion/nationalization has also been in evidence in Russia, Venezuela and Bolivia recently. Production facilties have been attacked in Nigeria.

Primary aluminium smelting would be one way to reduce wasteful gas flaring. Applied to vehicles, aluminium can improve fuel economy (cp. Audi A8, A2; Plymouth Prowler; lightweight engine blocks, rims). Unfortunately, it's difficult to bend aluminium sheetmetal into shape with the required tolerances. For the same reason, repairing dents in aluminium auto bodies is difficult.

More prosaically, few oil producing nations are yet interested in preparing their economies for the post-oil age. They know that the oil age will not end for a lack of oil any more than the stone age ended for a lack of stones, but they are not yet taking that to the logical conclusion. Dubai is the exception that proves the rule.


I read that at one time Saudi Arabia tried to convince American energy companies to come in and develop NG. The companies thought that this was a way back into oil production there. After they found out it was only NG and the country was used to subsidized prices, they declined the offer.


They do not need western capital since they are awash in petrodollars. On the other hand, they do need expertise that metal producers can provide, like in the case of Norsk Hydro and Qatar Petroleum.


India made taxis in the cities use CNG and the air quality improved dramatically. If a populated country like Egypt could do this, then a pipeline or even LNG might make sense. They would use less oil and have cleaner air.

Rafael Seidl


there is a project to deliver Iranian gas to Pakistan and India via a pipeline. The US is trying to block its construction because it wants to squeeze the mullahs.

A gas pipeline from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean would have to traverse either Israel or Syria, both politically sensitive propositions. However, the Maghreb has plentiful supplies of natural gas which could be applied to varius uses incl. CNG vehicles (2006 reserves in trilion cubic feet):

Algeria ~161
Libya 47-53
Egypt 59-66


There are two major running undersea NG pipelines: from Algeria/Tunis to Italy and from Morocco under the Gibraltar to Spain. There are talks about more projects.


Flaring of gas occurs but in Iran for example they have noticed this problem and the Amak project has now been fully put in operation. The project aim is collecting associated natural gas from southern oil fields in Iran and it will add 7 million cu m/d of gas worth $210 million/y to the nation's resources.

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