Acasă » Oil&Gas » Dumitru Becșenescu, Antares Group: Switching to alternative fuels has an immediate impact on the environment

Dumitru Becșenescu, Antares Group: Switching to alternative fuels has an immediate impact on the environment

31 July 2023
Bogdan Tudorache

When looking ahead, the most important thing is to discover ways to stimulate biomethane, which is required to ensure the economic feasibility of projects that can provide significant economic and environmental advantages. Thermal engines will continue to exist for a long time, and encouraging the adoption of low-CO2 vehicles will have an immediate positive impact. The shift to zero-emission automobiles powered solely by renewable energy sources is a long-term and difficult task. We cannot ignore this, and if we are to do it well, we must seriously weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each technology and act appropriately, Dumitru Becșenescu, President & CEO of Antares Group, told Energynomics.


What are Antares and Denisson Energy’s main green energy, sustainability and CNG investments and projects so far and what are the plans for 2023 and beyond?

The responsibility we have for future generations has led us to adopt the Antares Group slogan “Look to the future with confidence!” since its foundation in 1994, which is very representative of our mission which involves the permanent assumption and focus on identifying and building a business that includes a significant component of social responsibility. This is how the green mobility project was born.

The foundation of this project was laid in 2015, through the construction by Denisson Energy, a member company of the Antares group, of the first compressed natural gas (CNG) station in Romania, at Râmnicu Vâlcea, and through the purchase by Antares Transport, a company also a member of the Antares group, of the first 20 Iveco minibuses for the transport of passengers on CNG in Romania.

The CNG Romania project followed in 2017, a project co-financed by the European Commission through the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) program, which consists in the construction and operation of a network of 9 public CNG/BioCNG stations, in self-service mode, in the main cities in Romania located along the TEN-T corridor (Arad, Timișoara, Deva, Sibiu, Pitești, Bucharest, Constanța, Craiova and Drobeta-Turnu Severin). At the moment we are in the stage of completing the construction of the last stations and putting the completed ones into operation. The stations will be operational in the autumn of this year and will operate in self-service mode 24/7, which will provide good predictability to the market.

At the same time, as part of a sustainable development program based on encouraging the use of alternative fuels, in line with the decarbonisation objectives assumed by the European Union and Romania regarding the reduction in the transport sector of greenhouse gas emissions and other polluting factors with impact on the health of the population, we are developing new business lines that will contribute to the opening of the market by purchasing new CNG/BioCNG vehicles and promoting the conversion of vehicles to CNG and biomethane (BioCNG).

Thus, Antares Motors, a member company of the Antares group, the only authorized company in Romania for the installation of CNG/BioCNG conversion kits, maintenance, revisions and repairs of CNG/BioCNG installations, has started the process of converting vehicles to CNG. The existing conversion capacity at Râmnicu Vâlcea of 100 cars/day is to be expanded, depending on the evolution of the market, by opening new own conversion centers in the big cities. The CNG/BioCNG conversion kit we use and which has been successfully installed on Dacia cars has recently received the European approval E3*115R-00 7863. This approval, recognized by all European institutions including the ministries governing environmental issues from the states of the European Union, records a reduction in CO2 emissions of approximately 23.5% (from 120.97 g/km in the gasoline version to 98.03 g/km in the CNG/BioCNG version).

At the same time, Antares Transport, a member company of the Antares group, launched a new line of business by purchasing new Dacia Logan and Sandero petrol vehicles, which are converted to CNG/BioCNG and enter the ride-sharing alternative transport market (Bolt/Uber). The development plan is based on expanding this initiative to all cities where there are CNG/BioCNG stations, with the target being to reach a fleet of 1,000 cars by 2030.

From the experience so far, the CNG operation of the cars has impeccable behavior, the performances being similar to gasoline, in addition to bringing significant benefits both from the point of view of CO2 emissions and the economic efficiency given by the lower fuel consumption.

Continuing the initiative from 2015, when Antares Transport purchased 20 minibuses for passenger transport, which have so far traveled more than 2 million km, saving compared to similar diesel vehicles more than 2,000 tons of CO2, equivalent to the CO2 absorption of 100,000 trees, we have recently launched a project consisting in the development of a CNG/BioCNG passenger transport minibus with considerably greater transport capacity and autonomy, which we believe will revolutionize the passenger transport market through the advantages offered over current classic solutions. The prototype will be presented at the BusWorld event in Brussels this autumn and then at the profile events in Romania.


Which European funds have you accessed? What should the Romanian government do to accelerate the absorption of European funds?

Denisson Energy benefited from non-refundable funding from the European Commission, through the CEF program, in the amount of 4.4 million euro, for the CNG Romania project. Antares Transport benefited from non-refundable funding from the Ministry of Energy in the amount of 0.085 million euro through the ElectricUp program and Antares Motors -from 0.055 million euro via the ElectricUp program.

In the case of alternative fuels, the steps we believe the government should take to accelerate uptake would be related to an objective assessment and finding viable solutions to achieve CO2 reduction targets, given that there is a trend towards to limit the technologies by which this can be achieved by over-supporting electric vehicles without considering that there are other alternative fuels, such as CNG, which are much more mature, viable and efficient in terms of the pace of implementation.

On the other hand, we believe that the authorization process should be accelerated, and the process of evaluating applications for European funds should be simplified, replicating models from other countries where they work successfully.


What are the main barriers to the development of CNG projects in Romania? What can be done?

There are several barriers to the development of CNG projects in Romania, from those of a bureaucratic nature related to the authorization process, which is a very long one and which is under the control of the administrative apparatus, to those related to market conditions and which only influence can be exerted indirectly (the competitiveness of the gas market, including products, programs to stimulate consumption, etc.). Most important is, if we look to the future, in my view, to find ways to stimulate biomethane, necessary to ensure the economic feasibility of such projects, which can bring major economic and environmental benefits.

Equally important, in order to create demand and reach a critical mass necessary to boost investments in the field, I would mention the need to grant financial incentives (subsidies, tax advantages, etc.) to those who use this type of fuel, the most convenient example being subsidies from the environmental fund, which can be allocated in an algorithm that aims to proportionally reduce CO2 emissions in relation to the facilities granted to electric vehicles. Accepting reality, it is evident that thermal engines will be there for a long time, and increasing the usage of low CO2 vehicles will have an immediate positive impact.

The transition to the exclusive use of zero-emission vehicles from renewable energy sources is a long-term process and is by no means easy. We cannot ignore this and if we want it to be done properly we must realistically look at the pluses and minuses of each technology and act accordingly.


How do you see the development of the hydrogen-based sector in Romania?

Hydrogen is, according to many, the fuel of the future. But for now it is difficult to talk about the hydrogen market. They are only attempts, tests, attempts that are sometimes encouraging, sometimes disappointing, the so-called proof of concept. From my point of view, however, it will take many more years before hydrogen will establish itself as the dominant technology in the fuel market, and the economic feasibility of such projects is far from being one that would make them attractive.


How do you see, from a personal point of view, the economic evolution of Romania in the next period? How do you see the energy year 2023?

I think we are in a strictly conjunctural and speculative context. The fact that the health crisis, the economic crisis and the war in Ukraine followed and overlapped caused a major disruption of normalcy, taking the political spectrum by surprise, which proved unable or unprepared to face and manage it adequately address vulnerabilities.

I think it will take some time before we reach a normalization of the situation, and a return to prices comparable to those before the outbreak of the war is unlikely, but the trend will continue to be downward and quite unstable until the war is over and gas deliveries from Russia to Europe are resumed, or other truly feasible options will emerge.

Also, the price of CO2 certificates, another factor that has contributed massively to the increase in the price of energy, will probably remain high, but I believe that on the background of the increase and diversification of production capacities, things will normalize. How long it will take until then remains to be seen.



This interview first appeared in the printed edition of Energynomics Magazine, issued in June 2023.

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Autor: Bogdan Tudorache

Active in the economic and business press for the past 26 years, Bogdan graduated Law and then attended intensive courses in Economics and Business English. He went up to the position of editor-in-chief since 2006 and has provided management and editorial policy for numerous economic publications dedicated especially to the community of foreign investors in Romania. From 2003 to 2013 he was active mainly in the financial-banking sector. He started freelancing for Energynomics in 2013, notable for his advanced knowledge of markets, business communities and a mature editorial style, both in Romanian and English.

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